Saturday, January 31, 2015

Apple "Waldorf" Bread

The "Apple 'Waldorf' Bread" (page 405) helped restore my faith in oil free baking. After experimenting with the Breakfast Bran Muffins, which came out pretty dry, I was a bit discouraged. But the combination of ingredients in this recipe seemed to provide the magic formula for very moist, oil-free bread. I almost think this bread could be moved to the dessert section of the book, it is rather sweet, but oh-so-delicious! The same ingredients that go into a Waldorf salad (apples, walnuts, and raisins) are found here, and I think including the grated apple really contributed to the extra moist finish. Add to that the use of soymilk (instead of apple juice - the recipe gives the option of one or the other), and using one entire mashed banana to replace the ¼ cup of oil, this may be a formula in the making for future oil free bread adventures. And not to be forgotten, raisins also add some moistness. The batter is spiced up with cinnamon and allspice, the perfect complement to the fruity flavors, with vanilla extract adding to the dessert-like taste of the bread. This bread was delicious warm out of the oven, at room temperature, toasted, and even straight from the refrigerator (if you find you need to store it for more than a few days).

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Use whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose (white) flour.
  • Use the soymilk option for the liquid, as opposed to the apple juice, for a moister outcome.
  • Substitute one mashed banana for the ¼ cup oil.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Strawberry-Banana Smoothie

There are 11 smoothie recipes in this cookbook, and the "Strawberry-Banana Smoothie" (page 530) is the 6th one I've tried so far. This, to me, is my basic smoothie recipe - strawberries, bananas, and soymilk. (Sometimes I'll use orange juice in place of the soymilk). Easy, tasty, and uses ingredients that are usually on hand. The twist in this recipe is the optional addition of strawberry jam to intensify the flavor, especially nice if you have less than stellar fresh or frozen strawberries. Since I've started making my own soy yogurt at home, I will sometimes substitute this for the soy milk for extra nutrition and a little more complex flavor.

 Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • No changes necessary!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Giant Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

The recipe notes fittingly ask, is the "Giant Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake" (page 452) a "cake that thinks it's a cookie or a cookie masquerading as a cake?" My husband and I ate this dessert for several days, and after we finished every last delicious bite, neither one of us could rightly answer this question. It doesn't really matter, though, since no matter how you slice it, or bite into it, the bottom line is how good it tastes! And making it even more appealing to me was that the recipe does not call for any added oil or margarine. Not that it isn't rich enough, with ¾ cup peanut butter, this is a very indulgent dessert, and a little goes a long way. Besides the peanut butter, the cookie-cake contains maple syrup and brown sugar, soy milk, flour, baking powder, and vegan chocolate chips. Like I said, this is a very rich treat!

 Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Use whole wheat pastry flour or King Arthur's brand of White Whole Wheat flour instead of all-purpose (white) flour.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Hot Cocoa

Sometimes nothing else will do but a steamy mug of "Hot Cocoa" (page 540), and since it is so easy to make, satisfaction is only moments away. I recently discovered a way to make cocoa in my Vitamix blender, simply by adding all the ingredients to the blender jar, and blending on high for six minutes. You end up with hot steamy cocoa without worrying about stirring, burning, or scorching in a pan over the stove. Of course, the stove top method works perfectly fine, but I admit, I am very excited about using my Vitamix for all future hot cocoa experiences. (I'm not sure if other blenders would work this way, but the Vitamix is able to heat liquids to high heats such as soups and gravies, and now, hot cocoa!) Simple ingredients in this recipe: non dairy milk, cocoa powder, sugar, and vanilla extract. Perfect to chase away a winter chill!

 Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:


  • No changes necessary! :-)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Breakfast Bran Muffins

The "Breakfast Bran Muffins" (page 523) didn't turn out quite as moist as I had hoped they would. Of course, when omitting oil from baked goods, there is always going to be a challenge in this respect, but I think bran muffins in particular tend to be a bit on the drier side (which is probably why most recipes call for lots of oil or butter). And since bran flakes can vary widely, depending on what brand you end up with, it's hard to know if the recipe as written will work with the ones you use. Using whole grain flour (which I did, but the recipe calls for white flour) also results in a less moist baked good. In any case, these muffins were kind of dry. My husband didn't seem to mind at all, and he is pretty good at giving me honest feedback on my cooking. Cutting them in half and slathering with jam or apple butter also made a positive difference, as did warming them up.  I liked the raisins, they helped keep these muffins less dry than they would have been without them.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:                                                                                                                

  • Use whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose (white flour)
  • Instead of the ¼ cup of oil, use a mashed banana, or 1/3 cup prune puree (baby food prunes), or ½ cup applesauce.
  • Using soymilk instead orange juice for the liquid measure might help with the dryness by adding a bit more natural fat to the batter.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Pumpkin Ravioli with Peas & Caramelized Shallots

When serving ravioli, I typically think of topping it with some sort of sauce - marinara, Alfredo, even a vegan cheese style sauce. The "Pumpkin Ravioli with Peas & Caramelized Shallots" (page 230) was my first experience of using ravioli not as something to be "topped", but rather as just one component in a mixed ingredient dish. And, I have to make a confession. The recipe actually starts from scratch, giving detailed instructions on how to make the ravioli, using a pasta dough recipe found elsewhere in this book, and filling with a mixture of pumpkin, tofu, herbs and spices. I had been considering this recipe for quite awhile, and when I saw premade vegan pumpkin filled ravioli in a natural foods store, a complete rarity, I took it as a sign. I bought two packs and decided to make this recipe, which at this point, became quite easy! There are only two other ingredients once you have the ravioli made (or purchased) - the shallots and the peas. The shallots are cooked long and slow over medium heat in order to caramelize them, and then the peas are added to the skillet just long enough to warm through, along with the cooked ravioli. Although a quite unusual (for me) way to prepare ravioli, I really liked it. I thought it needed a little zip, so I added red pepper flakes at the table. Caramelizing onions (or shallots in this case) is usually done by cooking them in oil, but you can do it using water. Just add a couple teaspoons of water at a time to the skillet as the shallots are cooking, waiting until the skillet begins to dry out before adding water again. Continue this for about 15 minutes until the shallots are quite soft and golden brown.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:
  • Use the water method of caramelizing onions instead of cooking in oil. Using a medium heat, allow the shallots to cook until almost dry, adding 2-3 teaspoons of water at a time to allow the cooking process to continue. Repeat this procedure for about 15 minutes until the shallots are soft and golden brown.
  • If you are lucky enough to find  pre-made whole grain pumpkin filled ravioli, buy as much as you have room to store! :-) Otherwise, you can make your own using whole wheat pastry flour - not something I've ever tried, so I can't really comment on how that would work. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Ragin' Cajun Popcorn

What's more fun than popcorn? "Ragin' Cajun Popcorn" (page 4) just might be! The very first recipe of this book (but the 396th recipe I've tried), this offering really starts the book off with a bang!! Popped corn is tossed with a highly flavorful and HOT blend of spices, including oregano, smoked paprika, cumin, garlic, onion powder, celery salt, and cayenne pepper. These are flavorful spices known to Cajun cuisine, and they do pack a flavor punch. The biggest challenge here is getting the spices to adhere to the popcorn if you use the air popped method, thereby omitting the oil. One solution is to lightly spray the popcorn with water or Braggs Aminos prior to adding the spices, being careful to add just a spritz or two so the popcorn doesn't get soggy. If you choose to use oil, however, you certainly don't need ¼ cup of oil for 1/3 cup popcorn kernels. You will find that just 2 teaspoons is enough to pop the corn, cutting the fat content from the oil down from 54 grams of fat and 477 calories to just 9 grams of fat and 79 calories (for the entire batch). And you know how popcorn is, once you start eating it, it's hard to stop! Those calories and fat grams could add up very quickly!

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:


  • Use air popped popcorn so you won't have to use oil in the popping process. Spritz the popped corn with water or Braggs Aminos before adding the spices so they will stick.