Friday, October 30, 2009

Warming and Delicious
Plaintain and Pinto Stew

The history of the plantain can be traced to Southeast Asia as far back as 500 B.C. Alexander the Great brought plantains to Europe around 327 B.C. They made their way to Madagascar from Malaysia and India during the Trans-Saharan trade boom sometime around the 8th century. Along with yam, banana, and other food crops, plantain became an important factor in the prosperity and rapid expansion of the Bantu Kingdom of central and southern Africa around 1500 A.D. Portuguese sailors discovered both plantain and bananas in their travels to the African continent and populated the Canary lslands with their first plantations. It is believed that a Portuguese Franciscan monk first introduced the plantain to the Caribbean island of Santo Domingo in 1516. It wasn't long before the plantain made its way throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. Today, plantain is popular in many parts of the world, and is a staple in Latin American cuisine.

Plantains are cooked either when they are under-ripe and starchy or overripe and sweet. I don't care very much for the bland, starchy taste of under-ripe plantains, so I rarely eat them unless they are truly ripened, with the skin darkened to a deep yellow color that is covered with many black spots. Unless I get extremely lucky and find overripe plantain at my local Latin market, I may have to wait a week or more after buying plantains to prepare this tasty stew.

How wonderful to revisit one of my favorite cookbooks, Veganomicon and find that I only needed to omit 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to make this a very low-fat dish. I also omitted the cilantro, as I think the flavors of the beans, tomatoes, peppers, and plantain really shine through without it. You can find the recipe here, along with a nutritional analysis.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I've Discovered that I Really Like Gumbo!

What exactly is gumbo, anyway? Several sources note that the word gumbo comes from the African Bantu dialect word, kigombo, for okra. The native recipe for kigombo soup, a watery melange made of fish, okra, and plantains, was first brought to the Americas by African slaves. The recipe was later influenced by a number of cultures including the Spanish and the French, evolving into what is now a thick soup made with an array of ingredients and spices.

When I found this low-fat vegan recipe for Cajun Gumbo, in The McDougall Quick & Easy Cookbook, it sounded so delicious, I had to try it.

I just love how bubbly, colorful, and flavorful my gumbo looked while it was cooking!

Since I've never eaten authentic gumbo of any kind, I'm not sure how close this dish comes to tasting like the Creole classic recipe. Nevertheless, the blending of spices, vegetables, and beans served with brown rice made a wonderful warming meal on a chilly autumn evening.

As the temperature continues to dip, I think we'll be eating a lot more of this dish over the next few months, because I've discovered that I really like gumbo! Do you?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Black Bean Sloppy Joes

Violins, please...I never had Sloppy Joes as a kid. It just wasn't one of the five dishes in my mother's repertoire. (Poor me.) So it wasn't until after I graduated high school and was living away from home that I discovered this saucy sandwich. It was love at first bite!

Now I realize that I've kind of been living under a rock for the last ten years—that's when The McDougall Quick & Easy Cookbook was first published. But what a wonderful surprise for me to find within its pages a naturally low-fat vegan recipe that closely mimics the sassy flavors I remember so fondly. It made me fall in love with Sloppy Joes all over again.

(Notice the cute jungle motif plate? I couldn't resist buying it when I found it at one a local thrift shop!)

While I don't usually reprint recipes from other people's cookbooks unless I either have the author's permission or have found the recipe online elsewhere, this recipe is already posted on at least a dozen other websites. So I hope you'll try it (if you haven't already, because unlike me, you don't live under a rock!) It's a very tasty quick-and-easy-to-prepare dish that both kids and adults will have fun eating.


1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, diced
1/3 cup water
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1/4 cup quick-cooking oats
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 T yellow mustard
1 teaspoon agave nectar (original recipe called for honey)
1 teaspoon chili powder


Place onion and pepper in a saucepan with water. Cook, stirring frequently until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes.

Mash beans with a bean or potato masher (do not use a food processor). Add the beans and remaining ingredients to the saucepan, and cook over low heat until heated through, about 5 minutes. Serve on toasted whole wheat buns.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Meeting Food Intolerances Head-On with Orange Pan-Glazed Tempeh

I love having company, and I enjoy cooking for family and friends. After all, I can think of nothing more fulfilling than expressing my love through food. Spending some quality girlfriend time with a dear friend who I never get to see, well, that was just priceless. I can't remember the last time I had so much fun! Here Meryl Ann and I are having a blast at the Opening Fiesta Reception for the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) exhibit, at the Maude Kerns Art Center in Eugene.

Before Meryl Ann came to visit, I knew that she was wheat intolerant, and it was easy to accommodate for that. But I didn't know that she was also allergic to or intolerant of bananas, beans, (so much for those black bean brownies), onions, cucumbers, zucchini, jalapeño peppers, certain spices, and a few other things. This made meal preparation a bit more challenging.

One dish that I was able to pull out of my recipe archive is this simple, yet very tasty Orange Pan-Glazed Tempeh. I lightly browned the tempeh in a dry nonstick pan, instead of frying it in the 2 tablespoons of coconut oil I would have used in my pre-McDougall days. I served it over basmati rice, and the result was just as spectacular as the original. Meryl Ann was treated to a sprinkling of shredded coconut on her dish, but Mark and I enjoyed ours au naturel.


1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice (3-4 large juicy oranges)
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
3 teaspoons wheat-free tamari
2 1/4 tablespoons mirin
3 teaspoons maple syrup
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 small garlic clove, crushed
12 ounces of soy tempeh
1/2 lime
a handful of cilantro (optional)


Place the orange juice in a small bowl. Squeeze the grated ginger over the bowl to extract the juices, and discard the pulp. Add the tamari, mirin, maple syrup, ground coriander, and garlic. Mix together, and set aside.

Cut the tempeh into thin bite-sized pieces.

Lightly coat a non-stick pan with cooking spray, add the tempeh, and fry over medium-low heat for 5 minutes, or until golden underneath. (I was able to do this step without coating the pan.) Turn and cook the other side for another 5 minutes, or until golden. Pour the orange juice mixture into the pan, and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced to a lovely thick glaze. Turn the tempeh once more during this time and spoon the sauce over it from time to time.

Serve the tempeh drizzled with any remaining sauce, a squeeze of lime, and a handful of cilantro with rice or your grain of choice.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Puerto Rican Feast—Arroz con Gandules,
a New So Delicious Coconut Milk Treat,
and a Cookbook Contest Winner!

When I lived in New York City, my best friend was Puerto Rican. Sadly, our 15-year friendship ended after I moved away, and we drifted apart. But I often think of Shirley, and I like to imagine her having a beautiful life.

One of the perks that comes with having a Puerto Rican best friend is getting introduced to all the best Puerto Rican delicacies. From the spicy cuchifritos we'd buy at Spanish Harlem and Brooklyn Heights storefronts to her mother's delectable Christmas and Easter pasteles, every meal brought wonderfully unfamiliar surprises to my unseasoned gringita palate. One dish I remember quite fondly is Arroz con Gandules (rice with pigeon peas). So when I stumbled upon a vegan version of this dish (it's usually made with ham or sausage), I just had to try it. McDougallizing the recipe was also easy. I just omitted the 2-3 tablespoons of oil that would typically be used. Not only was the end result delicious, but it gave me a brand new appreciation for cilantro, which I had started to take a disliking to. And more important, it brought back sweet memories of a long-lost friendship. I miss you Shirley, wherever you are.

This dish is prepared in three parts. First the sofrito, a chunky sauce made with a variety of vegetables, herbs, and spices. Sofrito recipes vary, but the essential elements include onions, garlic, red or green bell peppers, and culantro.

Next, comes the sazon, a flavorful seasoning used in Latin American cooking. I won't buy a prepared bottled brand of sazon, as many contain MSG, and all it takes are a few simple ingredients and the shake of a hand to prepare your own.

The last step is cooking the rice and peas and mixing it all together.

For the sofrito: (This will make lots more than you need, and you can freeze the extra for the next time you make this dish.)
1 large green pepper
1 onion
1 tomato
1/2 red pepper
1/2-1 head garlic
1 bunch culantro or cilantro*
1/2 bunch flat leaf parlsey

Coarsely chop all the ingredients and then puree in the food processor.

For the sazon, mix together in a small glass jar:
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp hot paprika
pinch sweet paprika
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
salt to taste

For the arroz con gandules:
1 15-oz can pigeon peas, drained and rinsed
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 cup long grain white rice
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup tomato sauce
7-8 tbsp sofrito
1-2 tsp sazon or to taste
dash of liquid smoke
dash of balsamic vinegar
handful of fresh culantro or cilantro*, chopped

In a stockpot, saute the onion and green pepper in a couple of tablespoons of broth along with a pinch of sazon. Add the sofrito, more sazon, and stir for another few minutes. Add the rice, beans, water, vegetable broth, and tomato sauce, if using. Bring to a gentle boil then reduce to a simmer and cover. You want the beans and rice to absorb the liquid completely so that you don't end up making soup. Stir gently until rice is tender, about 20-25 minutes. 

Once the rice is done, lower the heat some more and season with more sazon, salt, pepper, the liquid smoke, Worcestershire sauce if using, vinegar, and fresh cilantro. Stir, taste, and season until it's just right!

*The authentic recipe is made with culantro (aka long coriander), a popular kitchen herb that is native to the Carribean and tropical regions of the Americas, and is also popular in Asian cuisine. My local Latin grocery was out of culantro the day I planned to prepare this dish. But as evidenced by its pungent aroma, culantro is closely related to cilantro, which made a fine substitute.

I allowed myself a sweet indulgence today: A So Delicious Coconut Milk Fudge Bar! At only 70 calories, I felt I wasn't really straying too far off the McDougall path. I also wasn't expecting anything amazing, but I should have known better. After all, this treat was made by Turtle Mountain. As you can see from my friend Meryl Ann's expression, these new fudge bars are decadently delicious! They are so creamy, rich, and chocolatey, I thought they tasted just like chocolate mousse on a stick.

Run, don't walk, to your nearest natural food store and pick yourself up a box of these babies. You'll be hooked!

Steve Nakon is the lucky winner of a free copy of The McDougall Quick & Easy Cookbook! Congratulations Steve, and thanks to everyone for taking the time to check out Dr. McDougall's website. Stay tuned to this blog for the next contest...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Thai Tofu and Cashews
and McDougall Cookbook Contest!

Either my taste buds are really changing, or the recipes in The McDougall Quick & Easy Cookbook are just ridiculously delicious. I suspect it's a combination of both, because Mark has also been enjoying what he calls "the best meals of my life!"

Believe it or not, I haven't missed eating my favorite Thai dish, peanut sauce curry at my favorite local Thai restaurant, Manola's. But I have missed the flavors of Thai food, so when I came upon this recipe for Thai Tofu and Cashews, I was more than ready to give it a go. I decided to add a few sliced carrots and red bell peppers to the ingredients. As you can see, this made for a beautifully colorful presentation, delectable beyond words.

I encourage anyone who wants to improve their health, lose weight without feeling deprived, or take their diet to the next level to get their hands on a copy of this wonderful book. And to show just how excited I am about it, I'm going to randomly give away a copy to one of my readers.

To earn an entry to win this amazing book, simply visit Dr. McDougall's website, return here and leave a comment telling me what feature or article on the site you found most interesting. Tweet this blog post (and leave another comment telling me that you did), and you'll receive a second entry! Please note: I must have a way to reach you via email in order for you to be eligible, so please include your email address with your entry, unless it's already accessible from your own blog. The winner will be selected on October 18th. Good luck!

Friday, October 09, 2009

A Couple of Very Special Desserts

Who doesn't love a bundt cake? This recipe for Chocolate-Orange Cake from the FatFree Vegan Kitchen was an instant hit at our house.

While mine wasn't nearly as pretty as Susan V's, it tasted divine, all the same. The denseness of this chewy cake complimented the sweet icing deliciously. Once again we felt like we were sneaking in a bit of forbidden indulgence. But without even a hint of oil or Earth Balance, this cake managed to be surprisingly moist. Of course I just had to substitute my favorite So Delicious Coconut Milk Yogurt for the soy yogurt called for in the recipe. The very, very subtle hint of coconut it added to the cake sent it completely over the top for me.

When I found out that one of my dearest friends was going to be driving all the way up from LA to visit, I had to bake her something special. I thought those Wonderful Chocolate Black Bean Brownies would be a nice, healthy, sweet way to show some love. But since my friend, Meryl Ann, is gluten intolerant, I substituted all-purpose gluten-free flour for the wheat flour, and the results were spectacular! Since Meryl Ann is not on the McDougall program, I treated her to some Purely Decadent Coconut Milk Cookie Dough ice cream, too. Had I been thinking ahead at the time, I would have also taken a photo of her face lighting up like a Christmas tree when she took the first bite. But here's a photo of her dessert, just after that first bite. And well, click on the pic, and zoom in for a closeup. You can pretty much imagine what her face looked like, can't you?

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Bountiful Autumn Stew

It's only the beginning of October, but already it feels like winter has set in. Two weeks ago the sun was shining like it would never stop, and the temperatures were hovering in the high 90s. Last week it started raining again, and now when I wake each morning, the thermometer reads somewhere just above or below 40°. I miss summer!

When I saw this recipe for Bountiful Autumn Stew in the most recent edition of the online McDougall Newsletter, it sounded like the perfect dish to warm my body and my heat-seeking soul. With yams, cannellini beans, kale, fresh tomato, zucchini, rice (I chose white basmati rice, instead of brown), and just the right amount of spice, the meal was hearty, filling, and very tasty. We'll be enjoying this satisfying dish again and again over the next few months, for sure.

Click here to subscribe to the highly informative, free monthly McDougall Newsletter, which includes advice on health and healing along with delicious, easy-to-prepare recipes.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Sensational Black Bean, Corn, and Rice Burritos

All of the meals I've been enjoying on my McDougall adventure have been delicious. But this is the first entree that has gone way beyond just good. Sure, I added a couple of my own tweaks, like Trader Joe's Spicy, Smoky Peach Salsa and a few slices of avocado, to make it more to my liking. But even without these additions, I think it still would have been great.

I made these with Ezekiel Sprouted Tortillas, because I like that they don't have any oil and are made with sprouted whole grains. But I think that next time I'll splurge and use flour tortillas that are thinner, softer, and more pliable, looking for ones with the least amount of oil. (Please tell me if you know where to find fat-free flour tortillas!)


1 jar of Trader Joe's Spicy Smoky Peach Salsa (or salsa of your choice)
1 jalapeño pepper, diced fine
1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-oz can sweet corn, drained
1 14.5 oz-can diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp minced fresh garlic
1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder (or 1 tsp milder chili powder)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 cups cooked brown rice (to save time, I used one package of Trader Joe's Frozen Organic Brown Rice)
12 tortillas
1 small avocado, sliced
1/2 cup chopped green onions (optional)


Place some of the juice from the tomatoes in a large saucepan with the diced jalapeño. Stir and sauté for a few minutes, until softened. Add beans, corn, tomatoes, garlic, chili, and cumin. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes. Stir in the rice, and heat through.

Wrap the tortillas in a kitchen towel and heat for 1 minute in the microwave or heat each tortilla individually for about 15 seconds on each side in a dry non-stick frying pan over low heat. Spread a line of the bean and rice mixture down the center of each tortilla, layer with 2 tablespoons of salsa, avocado slices, and a few green onions. Roll up and repeat with remaining tortillas.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Red, White, and Green Sandwiches

Sometimes I feel like having breakfast for dinner. That's when scrambled tempeh or tofu or a vegan omelette seems just right. And sometimes I feel like having lunch for dinner. On those occasions, The Great American Untuna Salad has often been my go-to choice. So when I came across the recipe for Spinach Buns in my new McDougall cookbook, that sounded like a nice, simple, lunch-like dinner I might be able to add in to the rotation.

But I didn't have any whole wheat buns, and including some lovely roasted red bell peppers sounded like that might be good, too. So what I came up with is a sort of sandwich homage to Italy on toasted Squirrely bread, which held up quite nicely to the somewhat wet ingredients. After all, what could be more Italian than roasted red bell peppers, spinach, and garbanzo beans? And the fact that the colors sort of happen to match those in the Italian flag, couldn't be a mere coincidence, could it?


1 15-oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp minced fresh garlic
1 10-oz bag washed baby spinach
1 jar roasted red bell peppers, packed in water and drained
8 slices Squirrely Bread, or any hearty whole wheat bread


Place the first four ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Place the vinegar in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir for 1 minute. Add the spinach and stir for another minute. Season with pepper and cook for another few minutes.

Toast the bread and generously spread some of the garbanzo mixture on 1 slice. Layer the spinach and red pepper on top, and cover with another slice of bread. Makes 4 sandwiches.