Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Brazilian Black Bean Stew

The "Brazilian Black Bean Stew" (page 255) has the most unusual combination of ingredients and at a first glance, I wondered if it would really work. In fact, I glanced at it more than a few times before finally taking the plunge and deciding to make this recipe. I love black beans, and separately, I love all the other ingredients as well, so finally with a nothing ventured, nothing gained approach, I gave it a try. Most of the other ingredients are those I would expect to find in a bean stew - onion, garlic, bell pepper, jalapeño, tomatoes. And even the sweet potatoes weren't off-putting, as I do enjoy the combination of black beans and sweet potatoes in other preparations as well (such as in a burrito). Then, further down the list of ingredients, I see mango is part of the mix. Hmmm…well, I like mango salsa, so if I think of this as putting the salsa right in the stew pot, not so unusual. But I have to admit, it was the banana that really stumped me. I just couldn't figure out what the banana would add to it, and I was worried it would immediately get really mushy, and, well, I just couldn't talk myself into it. I don't know if cheated myself out of a unique and delicious culinary experience or not. I even thought about adding the sliced banana to individual servings, or maybe even using a plantain instead, but didn't do either. However, in the end, the stew was very good, a wonderful combination of colors, pretty to look at, and delicious to eat. The recipe notes suggest serving it over quinoa or rice, but I served it as-is, in a bowl, and with a soup spoon.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Happily, this recipe as written doesn't require more than just leaving out the one tablespoon of olive oil when sautéing the veggies. Instead, use a nonstick soup pot, and instead of oil, use a small amount of broth or water.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Five-Spiced Walnuts

I first tasted five-spice powder when my husband used it to make Chinese vegan sausages. Depending on what brand you buy, there will be a slightly different blend of spices. The one I use from Penzeys Spices consists of cinnamon, star anise, anise seed, ginger and cloves. Some varieties have fennel, some have pepper corns, but no matter, five-spice powder is quite distinctive, and made a very tasty coating for the "Five-Spiced Walnuts" (page 7). The recipe calls for glazing the walnut halves in a mixture of oil, margarine, and soy sauce before adding the five-spice powder, but I used soy sauce only, and that gave the walnuts just enough of a moist coating to allow the spices to stick to them. Once the walnuts are prepared, they are baked in a moderate oven (I lined my cookie sheet with parchment paper to prevent sticking). I had to bake these about 30 minutes as opposed to the 15 minutes called for in the recipe, and although the recommendation is eat them within 2-3 days, mine kept well for two weeks. I found many delicious ways to use these flavorful treats including adding to green salads, topping stir-fries, and just snacking on them.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Omit the oil and the margarine (and save yourself 31 grams of fat!); the soy sauce will provide enough moisture to allow the spices to stick.
  • Line your baking sheet with parchment paper to prevent sticking, or use a nonstick baking surface such as a Silpat baking mat.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Papaya Paradise Smoothie

So far the "Papaya Paradise Smoothie" (page 532) is my favorite smoothie in this book (although I still have three more to try). The combination of flavors is perfectly tropical and sweet, and if you make sure all the fruit is completely frozen before making the smoothie, it can be as thick as a milkshake (which is how I prefer my smoothies). The base recipe calls for 2 frozen bananas, and 2 fresh papayas, but I've noticed that papayas come in two sizes: HUGE (like the size of a large butternut squash), or small, about the size of a mango. I assumed in this case the recipe was referencing the smaller sized papaya, or roughly around two cups. The liquid part of the smoothie is pineapple juice and (optional) coconut milk. Since coconut milk is very high in saturated fat, I opted not to use it, and instead used ½ cup of soymilk and ½ teaspoon of coconut extract. This provided the wonderful coconut flavor without the fat, and excellent and delicious substitution. Garnish the smoothies with fresh strawberry or pineapple. Aloha!

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • While technically no changes are necessary, coconut milk is very high in fat, more specifically, saturated fat. To make a healthier version, use soymilk  (½ cup) and coconut extract (½ teaspoon) instead.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Penne With Peanut Pesto

"Penne With Peanut Pesto" (page 203) really stretches the boundaries of what I consider traditional pesto, but notwithstanding the liberal interpretation of the concept, this preparation was outstandingly delicious! I have to admit to a huge fondness for peanut sauces, especially spicy peanut sauces, the combination found quite often in Asian dishes. And if you opt to use Asian noodles as I did (and the recipe suggests as an alternative to the penne), this dish really is reminiscent of Asian style cooking. The sauce consists of garlic, peanuts and peanut butter (a very rich combination), soy sauce, lime juice, and Asian chili paste (I doubled the amount of chili paste called for and added ½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes to get the heat level up to my liking). The recipe also calls for two tablespoons of sesame oil, but I left this out altogether. With the high fat content in the peanuts and peanut butter, the sesame oil wasn't even missed. However, if you really wanted to include the distinctive sesame oil flavor, adding only a teaspoon or less would do the trick. The recipe as written would contribute 96 total grams of fat (spread over 4 servings), but by leaving out the sesame oil this can be reduced to 68 grams - still a very high fat dish! Because I like my pasta dishes a little saucier than most recipes call for, I used just ½ pound of pasta instead of the one pound called for. This dish could be quite addictive, it was that good!

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Use whole grain noodles, either penne or Asian style udon, rice, or soba style.
  • Omit the sesame oil altogether, no extra fat is necessary (although you will be omitting this particular flavor).

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Sesame Pita Chips

Finding healthy snack chips can be a challenge, but you have a much better chance of this if you make them at home! The "Sesame Pita Chips" (page 4) start with fresh pita bread circles that you split into two, season, cut into triangles, and bake in the oven. Really, nothing could be quicker or easier, fresher, or tastier. The recipe calls for spreading the pita circles with oil before sprinkling on sesame seeds, and you do need something moist on the bread so the seeds will stick, but I opted to use oil-free salad dressing in place of the oil. Not only did this work extremely well, it added a nice flavor dimension to the chips as well. Using this approach also opens the door to creating many different varieties of chips, depending on what dressing you choose. I used the vegan "Cheesy Caesar Dressing" from the Forks over Knives collection of recipes, and it was delicious. Other good choices include oil free Italian and oil free ranch, or whatever sounds good to you.  

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • Use oil free whole grain pita bread.
  • Instead of brushing the pitas with oil, use an oil free vegan salad dressing.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Edamame With Course Salt

"Edamame With Course Salt" (page 7) is so easy to make at home, especially since edamame (fresh soybeans) now seems to be readily available in a wide variety of grocery stores. This is more of a procedure than a recipe. Simply cook whole edamame (meaning the entire pod with the peas still intact), pour on a plate, and sprinkle with course salt. Pop the beans out of the pod directly into your mouth, or into a mixture of soy sauce and wasabi, for a real flavor burst. The bag I purchased from the frozen foods section had instructions for steaming the edamame in the microwave, in the bag they came in. Nothing simpler than that! These tasty little beans are a great start to a Japanese meal, or a quick snack any time. And happily, there were no changes necessary to this recipe.

Keeping it "McDougall Friendly" checklist:

  • No changes necessary!