Thursday, November 27, 2014

Summer Vegetable Soup

If you have your own garden, or access to a local farmer's market, you will have all the fresh veggies you need for this "Summer Vegetable Soup" (page 149). Leeks, carrots, garlic, potatoes, zucchini, summer squash, tomatoes and corn cook tender in a light vegetable broth, and fresh spinach adds the colorful finishing touch. This soup is soothing, nutritious, and delicious. But you don't have to wait until summer to make it - you can usually find these vegetables in well stocked grocery stores year round. 

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Omit the oil when sautéing the veggies; instead use a nonstick soup pot and/or a little water, broth, or sherry as the sauté liquid.
  • Saturday, November 22, 2014

    Green Bean Bake with Crispy Leeks

    Just in time for Thanksgiving, "Green Bean Bake with Crispy Leeks" (page 370) presented me with a fun challenge - how to prepare the 'crispy leeks' portion of the recipe without using ½ cup oil to fry them in. But first things first: preparing fresh green beans (trim and cook in boiling salted water); sautéing garlic, shallots, fresh mushrooms, with herbs and spices; thickening the sautéed veggies with a roux of flour and sherry; simmering all this in broth until it thickens; adding soy creamer and the prepared green beans to this mixture. Now you've got the 'Green Bean Bake' portion of the dish. 

    (Note: when I try to use flour as a thickening agent in a skillet of sautéed veggies, I usually end up with a lumpy mess, especially when cooking oil free. To avoid this, I usually add whatever liquids will be used in the dish to my blender, along with the flour, and whirl on low to a smooth consistency before adding to the skillet. It may not be as "gourmet" as creating a roux, but I find I get much better results with no loss of flavor. In this recipe, I blended the flour, sherry, and veggie broth (mushroom flavored broth was an excellent choice here!) before adding to the hot skillet of sautéed veggies and was rewarded with a rich, flavorful, and lump-free mixture.) 

    Now, for the challenge of preparing the crispy leeks. The instructions ask you to cut one leek in half lengthwise, into two long this strips. This didn't seem right to me, and I even wondered if it was a typo. Instead, I opted to slice the leek from the top, creating several small rings, and working my way down to the tough green part before I stopped. I ended up with about 10 small "onion rings", which I further separated into smaller rings. I put these rings into a bowl of soymilk to soak for about 10 minutes. I then placed the seasoning mix of flour, salt, and pepper into a small brown paper bag (like a lunch bag). I removed the onion rings with a slotted spoon, placed them in the bag of seasoned flour, shook them up good, then spread them on a parchment lined baking sheet. I baked these at 375 for about 30 minutes, checking at 10 minute intervals to make sure they weren't burning. When they were browned and crispy, I took them out of the oven and used them for the casserole topping. 

    This dish did turn out to be a little time and labor intensive, but if you are looking for a delicious, and impressive, vegan alternative to the standard Green Bean Casserole that shows up every year around this time, it could be well worth your effort! 

    Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

    • Omit the oil when sautéing the shallots and garlic; instead use a nonstick skillet and/or a little water, broth, or sherry as the sauté liquid. (Also, see my note above about incorporating the flour as a thickening agent in the skillet.)
    • Use whole wheat pastry flour when for thickening the vegetable mixture and for preparing the leeks instead of all-purpose (white) flour.
    • See my method above for creating the crispy leeks, as opposed to frying them in oil.

    Monday, November 17, 2014

    Quinoa & Pinto Bean-Stuffed Peppers

    The "Quinoa & Pinto Bean-Stuffed Peppers" (page 336) is a very festive dish, especially if you use different colored peppers. Many grocery stores carry the pre-packaged, multi-pack, multi-colored peppers, a great choice for this recipe. As you may have read in some of my earlier posts, I'm not a huge fan of quinoa, but I am starting to warm up to it, the more I experiment, and the combination of ingredients for the stuffing here - quinoa, red onion, and pinto beans - was simple, but good. I did find the filling just a tad bland, however, and a bit dry, so I added ½ cup green salsa to the mixture before stuffing the peppers. This added a nice amount of moisture, and the extra flavor boost I was looking for. Most recipes for stuffed peppers call for par-boiling or quick cooking the peppers prior to stuffing and baking them, but I always skip this step. I find the peppers get too soft for my liking when doing this, and baking them in the oven once they are stuffed yields the best texture. You might end up with extra filling, which makes a nice side dish for another meal.

    Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
    • Omit the olive oil when sautéing the vegetables; instead use a nonstick saucepan and/or a little water, broth, or sherry as the sauté liquid.

    Wednesday, November 12, 2014

    Asian Noodle Salad with Tempeh

    If you are a fan of Asian dishes that incorporate peanut sauces or dressings, you will surely enjoy the delicious "Asian Noodle Salad with Tempeh" (page 94). The salad consists of four components: the noodles (linguine or rice noodles, I especially enjoy the Eden brand Brown Rice Udon); the vegetables (carrot, red bell pepper, peas, and green onions); the tempeh; and the peanut dressing (a spicy combination of peanut butter, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, rice wine vinegar and more). Something about the combination of these flavors, colors, textures, and spiciness are addictively pleasing to me. Good thing my husband was around to share this with, otherwise I might have embarrassed myself by eating it all in one sitting!

    Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
    • "Brown" the tempeh in a non-stick skillet, omitting the oil called for. Although you will not end up with truly "browned" tempeh, it will still be completely suitable in the salad.  
    • The recipe calls for tossing the cooked noodles in sesame oil; you can skip this altogether and just rinse the noodles well under cold running water to prevent sticking (this is what I did). However, if you really want the flavor of the sesame oil, use just ½ teaspoon (instead of the tablespoon called for).
    • Use whole grain noodles of your choice.

    Friday, November 7, 2014

    Tagliatelle with Porcini Bolognese Sauce

    "Tagliatelle with Porcini Bolognese Sauce" (page 200) is an Italian dish, which in this rendition takes advantage of the chewiness of mushrooms to replace the traditional use of ground meat. This is a tomato based sauce with the addition of onion, carrot, and celery making this a hearty and healthy presentation. A small amount of soy creamer is added at the end of the cooking time for an extra layer of smoothness. After the sauce has simmered to perfection, it is served over tagliatelle (long flat noodles which can be interchanged with fettuccine if hard to find). Keep in mind that fresh porcini mushrooms can be scarce in the markets, although the dried variety can be readily found. You might have to substitute another fresh mushroom to make this dish - if so, pick one of the more flavorful wild mushroom varieties, if available. You can also use a combination of fresh and dried mushrooms for additional flavor and texture.
    Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
    • Omit the olive oil when sautéing the vegetables; instead use a nonstick saucepan and/or a little water, broth, or sherry as the sauté liquid.
    • Use whole grain tagliatelle (or fettuccine).

    Monday, November 3, 2014

    Tropical Smoothie

    Nothing is as easy or pleasing as a smoothie poured right out of your blender! Any combination of fruits, juices, nondairy milks, sweeteners, and flavorings, not to mentions greens, chia seed, or flax seed somehow magically combine to yield delicious drinks that can be part of a meal, an entire meal, or a healthy snack. The "Tropical Smoothie" (page 529) reminded me of a Piña Colada (minus the rum), combining the flavors of mango, pineapple, and coconut (a cherry on top would have been a great finishing touch!). The mango was fresh, sliced right off the core and into the blender; the pineapple came from a combination of fresh chunks and canned juice; and the recipe called for one cup coconut milk, but I avoid this product due to the high fat, and high saturated fat content, so instead I used an equal amount of soymilk with ½ teaspoon coconut extract added for flavor. Even lowfat coconut milk, which this recipe calls for, contains 16 grams of fat (12 grams of which are saturated fat) and 180 calories, versus soymilk which contains only 4 grams of fat (0.5 saturated) and 81 calories. This made a full blender of drink, enough to serve 2-4, per the recipe, and my husband and I managed to drink it all in one sitting!

    Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

    • Technically, no changes are necessary to keep this McDougall Friendly, but coconut milk contains a huge amount of saturated fat, so I opted to use soymilk with ½ teaspoon of coconut extract for flavor. This worked exceptionally well! By the way - were you to use full fat coconut milk, you would have been adding 57 grams of fat (51 grams of which are saturated fat), and 552 calories!