Friday, March 27, 2015

Angel Hair Pasta with Olive Oil & Garlic

When I saw the recipe for "Angel Hair Pasta with Olive Oil & Garlic" (page 211), I had to smile. This was an exact replication of my standby, go-to fast-food I turned to when I wanted something quick, and something representing the epitome of comfort food.  Consisting simply of cooked pasta, olive oil, and fresh garlic (and sometimes topped off by parmesan and/or freshly ground black pepper), I think I could have lived on this food at one time. I never realized this was a bona fide recipe, a classic dish that actually had a name - Aglio-Olio (which means Garlic-Oil).  To me, this was nothing more than a pantry staple that I dearly loved, and had a hard time letting go of when I began to cook and eat oil-free. So when it came time to make this recipe, I was balking at the idea, knowing I would be leaving out the olive oil and significantly changing the entire presentation and experience. But I gathered up my courage and plunged ahead, using an ample amount of flavorful veggie broth to replace the ½ cup (yes, ½ CUP!) of oil called for in this recipe. Wow - that's 142 grams of fat! Somehow knowing that helped me move past my reluctance, and although I will always have fond memories of the way I used to eat this dish, using veggie broth was quite acceptable, especially if you are lucky enough to find fresh homemade pasta to mix it with. Be liberal with the veggie broth, the "juicier" it is, the better.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Omit the olive oil, using an equal or greater amount of flavorful veggie broth instead.
  • Use whole grain pasta of your choice.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Citrus Vinaigrette

For a light and versatile topping for salads or steamed vegetables, you might want to try the "Citrus Vinaigrette" (page 103). Using freshly squeezed orange, lemon, and lime juices combined with agave nectar and Dijon mustard, and spiced up just a tad with cayenne pepper, the flavors here are bright and vibrant. The recipe also calls for ¼ cup of olive oil. This actually comprises more than half the volume of the dressing, so it didn't seem workable to just "leave it out". Instead, I used ¼ cup water, and added ¼ teaspoon guar gum to thicken the dressing. I used this on a green salad made from butter lettuce and red onion, topped off with Agave-Glazed Pecans. Delicious simplicity!

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Omit the olive oil. Use water instead, and thicken the dressing with ¼ teaspoon guar gum. (This needs to be thoroughly whisked or shaken into the dressing and allowed to sit for at least 30-60 minutes to thicken up.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Agave-Glazed Pecans

The "Agave-Glazed Pecans" (page 6) are a sweet treat that can be enjoyed in multiple ways. I placed them on top of individual servings of pudding; I added them to simple salads of leafy green lettuce and red onion; I munched on them all by themselves. However you decide to try these, you likely won't be disappointed, unless you simply don't like pecans. A tasty combination of nuts, sweetener, cinnamon, and vanilla extract (I left the margarine out altogether), these make a great contribution to a holiday party spread. They are quite sticky, so I stored them in single layers separated by pieces of parchment paper so they wouldn't meld into one another. They should probably be eaten fairly soon after preparation. I cut the recipe in half since it was only two of us eating them.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Omit the margarine altogether.  

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Personalized Trail Mix

"Personalized Trail Mix" (page 6) isn't so much a recipe as it is a suggestion, a list of possible ingredients, completely customizable, for creating the trail mix that most suits your tastes (or what's currently in your pantry!). I decided to make this one day when I was cleaning out my dry goods drawer, and discovered I had several dibs and dabs of various nuts and dried fruit. I ended up combining slivered almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, dried cherries, and golden raisins. You really can't go wrong with this "recipe", quite reminiscent of GORP (Good Old Raisins & Peanuts). For added flavor, toast the seeds and nuts first, but this is completely optional.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

No changes needed!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Spinach & Almond Pesto

I never knew pesto could be made with so many variations! This book has recipes using everything from pine nuts (traditional) to walnuts, to almonds, to sunflower seeds as the base (and some with no nuts at all), combined with basil (again, traditional), or parsley, or spinach for the "greenery". There is even a red version using no greens at all, rather, basing it on tomatoes. The "Spinach & Almond Pesto" (page 566) is made from spinach, parsley, almonds and garlic, and with the expected call for oil (1/3 cup in this case). I used light vegetable broth in place of the oil, and found this completely acceptable (as I have with all the pesto recipes I've tried so far). My husband and I enjoyed this delicious, pretty, bright green pesto served over whole grain fettuccine.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Omit the olive oil, and use a light vegetable broth instead. One-third cup olive oil contains 71 grams of fat!

Monday, March 2, 2015


"Cornbread" (page 401) is one of my favorite quick breads. It is a wonderful accompaniment to bean dishes, is lovely warm out of the oven with a drizzle of pure maple syrup, and is a great take-along on hikes when you need a snack to hold you until lunch. Since I switched to oil-free baking, perfecting cornbread has been a challenge, and the end product is often too dry, too crumbly, or both. However, I was happily surprised when this particular recipe yielded a moist and tender loaf that restored my faith in achieving a (more than!) acceptable oil-free cornbread. This is a basic recipe consisting of cornmeal and flour, curdled soymilk (using vinegar to create "buttermilk"), a small amount of sugar, and leavened with baking powder. The recipe also calls for ¼ cup of oil, but I replaced this with ½ cup unsweetened applesauce. I have discovered recently that when replacing the oil with applesauce or banana, more is better. So, if the recipe calls for ¼ cup oil, I'll up the amount of applesauce or banana to ½ cup. This has made a positive difference in the final outcome of my oil-free baking, as well as being careful not to over-bake (something I had not been as attentive to in the past). Try this recipe the oil free way, and see if you don't find it as delicious as I did!

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Use whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose (white) flour.
  • Substitute ½ cup of applesauce for the ¼ cup of oil.