Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year's Eve Raspberry Sparkling Cider Fizz

I recently discovered Viviane Bauquet Farre's recipe for Raspberry Champagne Fizz at her Food & Style blog. With a minor tweak or two, it sounded like it would make a dazzlingly delicious and festive vegan New Year's Eve dessert, and I couldn't wait to try it!

I wanted to prepare one or two ahead of time, not only to try it out before New Year's Eve, but also to be able to share the recipe and photos with you. To quote Viviane, "The result is simply sublime."

For the raspberry coulis:

1 12-oz package frozen raspberries, thawed
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons evaporated cane crystals
2 tablespoons Chambord or Cassis liqueur (I used Chambord)

For the fizz:

2 pints Purely Decadent Made with Coconut Milk Vanilla Bean ice cream (Coconut flavor would be fabulous, too!)
1 pint fresh raspberries, as garnish
1 bottle Sparkling Cider (You could also use champagne or sparkling wine, as suggested in the original recipe. This would not only up the alcohol, but it would also make it more fizzy.)

Step 1: To make the coulis, place the raspberries, lemon juice, sugar and liqueur in the bowl of a food processor and process at high speed until very smooth. Pass through a fine sieve and pour into a large squeeze bottle. Refrigerate until ready to use (for up to 3 days).

Step 2: To serve, squeeze a little raspberry coulis into a martini glass. Top with one or two scoops of Purely Decadent, depending on the size of your glasses. Garnish with the fresh raspberries. Top each glass with sparkling cider, wine, or champagne at the table. Watch it fizz, and enjoy!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Mad About Mu Shu

I'm crazy about Mu Shu. I think it's one of the most fun dishes you can order at a Chinese restaurant. Building your own little wrap by filling a wafer-thin pancake with hoisin-soaked shredded napa cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, green onions, and tofu, and topping it with sweet and spicy plum sauce before rolling it all up is an almost meditative experience.

The recipe for Moo Shu Vegetable Wraps in The McDougall Quick and Easy Cookbook was every bit as fun to make, tastier, and healthier than any Mu Shu I've eaten at any restaurant. Flour tortillas substituted nicely for the mu shu pancakes. (If someone knows of a vegan mu shu pancake out there, please let me know the brand name!) Freshly minced garlic and ginger added the perfect zest, and cornstarch thickened the homemade hoisin sauce to perfection.

What a spectacular display the veggies made when first added to the pan! To prepare, shred some vegetables, and thinly slice some red bell pepper and mushrooms. (I used baby bellas.) Place about 1/2 cup of water in a large pan, add all the vegetables with a teaspoon or two or minced fresh ginger and garlic. Stir frequently for a few minutes. Add a few tablespoons of soy sauce, some crumbled tofu, and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons of cold water to thicken. Stir for another five minutes or so, until sauce is thickened. Warm tortillas, and place a line of the Mu Shu mixture down the center of each. Top with plum sauce, roll up, and enjoy!

Served up on a tortilla, waiting to be topped with plum sauce, wrapped, and devoured!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

An Alfredo Sauce by Any Other Name

... would still taste as creamy, rich, and delicious! That's why I was knocked over by Emily Barth Webber's recipe for Fettucine in Cream Sauce with Summer Vegetables featured in the July 2007 McDougall Newsletter. Yes, I realize it's not summer, but the brightly colored mix of broccoli, red bell peppers, spinach, yellow squash, mushrooms, and tomatoes made me feel like it was summer! Blended raw cashews made the sauce as rich and creamy as any Alfredo, and pad Thai rice noodles made a very nice substitute for fettucine pasta. Here's a money-saving tip: I buy my rice noodles at any one of several Asian markets we have here in town. They're about one quarter the price I'd have to pay for the brands found at supermarkets and natural food stores.

Chef Eric Tucker's Fettucine with Braised Garlic Cream has long been one of my favorite go-to pasta dishes. I love the way my kitchen fills with the fragrance of rosemary as the garlic is roasting in the oven. You'll find the recipe for braised garlic here. It will keep in the fridge for up to a week in a tightly sealed glass jar. Once you have the braised garlic on hand, the sauce is a snap to put together. And it tastes sinfully rich, even though there's only a smidgen of fat from the light soy milk in this recipe.

Instead of using fettucine noodles, I substituted Mrs. Leeper's Gluten-Free Organic Corn Pasta. My local Fred Meyer store is discontinuing them, so they had them on clearance at 50% off. I'm sorry they're not going to be carrying them anymore. But it was such a great deal, I snagged every package they had left.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Mini Mexican "Pizzas"

Lately I've been falling in love all over again with autumn squash: Acorn, kabocha, butternut, Australian butter, munchkin, and my favorite, butternut. So when I came across Erin Dame's recipe for Mini Mexican Pizzas in the McDougall newsletter archives, I knew I had to give it a try!

And I wasn't disappointed. These tasty little discs of joy were flavorful, spicy, low fat, and surprisingly filling! I highly recommend you give this very simple dish a try. You may just fall in love with butternut squash for the first time or all over again!

And here's a recipe for Adobo Seasoning, since I could not find a store-bought brand that didn't contain tricalcium phosphate.


1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried Mexican oregano
1 tsp peppercorns
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt

Grind all the ingredients together with a mortar and pestle or in a coffee grinder.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

There's Pad Thai, and Then There's Pad Thai

Every time I've ordered Pad Thai at any Thai restaurant anywhere in the world, it has pretty much tasted the same. Sure, there were slight nuances in flavor, and sometimes on less fortunate occasions, the noodles would be undercooked or stuck together in a big blob. (Apparently there's some trick to not over- or under-cooking the noodles.) But generally speaking, unlike Panang Curry, which seems to vary widely in flavor from place to place, Pad Thai sauce always tastes pretty much the same to me. Not that I don't love it. It's just that when it comes to the overall flavor, ordering Pad Thai has always been predictable. And that's not a bad thing.

But I recently read that there are as many ways to prepare Pad Thai as there are snowflakes. Okay, well maybe not that many ways, but according to Chat Mingkwan, author of the treasured vegan recipe book, Buddha's Table, "Each chef has a signature version of this quintessential Thai dish, differing in ingredients, techniques, and leading flavors." Hmmm ... verrry interesting.

Since we stopped eating out at Thai restaurants when we started the McDougall diet several months ago, Pad Thai is one dish I've been starting to crave. How fortunate that I found Mary McDougall's recipe for Pad Thai hiding within the pages of The McDougall Quick and Easy Cookbook.

The flavors in Mary's dish were more subtle than the bang-you-over-the-head zestiness (and the fried tofu) of the restaurant-style dish I am accustomed to. But it had a lovely mix of flavors, and didn't leave me with the heavy feeling I sometimes experienced after eating the often oil-drenched dish served at restaurants.

But I still wanted to try to find a recipe that came a bit closer to reproducing that restaurant-style flavor. So I tried the Stir-Fried Thai Noodles recipe from Buddha's Table. Leaving out the oil and the peanuts, it tasted delicious, but still not like the classic restaurant dish. Which is fine by me. I'll just have to keep experimenting. Both times my noodles cooked perfectly, too. I don't know if it was beginner's luck, or just my ability to follow directions precisely.

I think that next time I prepare this recipe I'll use half the tamarind liquid and sugar. The recipe will look like this:


8 oz. dried chantaboon rice noodles
1/4 cup water
2 Tbs minced garlic
3 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms
1/8 cup evaporated cane crystals
1/4 cup light soy sauce
1 Tbs tamarind liquid (available at Asian grocery stores)
2 Tbs distilled white vinegar
1 Tbs paprika or chili powder
3 Tbs minced preserved turnips (available at Asian grocery stores)
1 pkg Smoked Tofu or Baked Thai Spicy Tofu, sliced thin
3 cups mung bean sprouts
1/2 cup sliced green onion
1/2 cup juilienne red bell peppers
1 whole lime cut into quarters for accompaniment

Soak the rice noodles in warm water until soft and pliable, about 30 minutes. Check the water temperature occasionally. If it is no longer warm, refresh the water. (I did this twice.) Drain and set noodles aside.

Heat a wok or large skillet on high heat. Add water and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add the soaked and drained noodles and stir until well coated.

Add the sugar, soy sauce, tamarind liquid, vinegar, and paprika or chili powder. Stir-fry the mixutre until thoroughly combined and liquid is absorbed. Stir in the tofu and preserved turnips. Check the noodle texture; it should be cooked and soft. Add some water if the noodles are too dry or too tough. (If they fall apart easily, they are overcooked. But this wasn't an issue for me, I think because I didn't over "cook" them in the warm water.)

Stir in the bean sprouts, red bell pepper, and green onion. Continue stir-frying until heated through and well combined. Adjust the flavor with more soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar to taste. Transfer to individual plates and garnish with crushed peanuts, if desired. Serve with fresh bean sprouts and lime wedges to be squeezed over dish. Serves 4.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Three Greens Ribollita

Brrrr ... Baby, it's cold outside...unseasonably cold! Last night it got down to 11°! But I'm not complaining because it's been sunny and dry, which is also quite uncharacteristic for this time of year.

I can think of no meal more warming and satisfying on a wintry day than a big bowl of ribollita. The word ribollita literally means "reboiled," and it's a hearty, classic soup from Tuscany. Like most Tuscan cuisine, the soup has peasant origins and was originally made by reboiling leftover minestrone from the previous day and pouring it over remnant chunks of bread.

There are many variations of course, but the main ingredients include cannellini beans, and inexpensive vegetables such as carrot, spinach, onion, tomatoes, cavalo nero (black Tuscan kale), and of course, bread. These days the broth is often made from chicken or beef stock, doused in olive oil and sprinkled generously with Parmesan cheese. I was fortunate on my first trip to Italy many years ago to dine at the only vegetarian restaurant in Florence at the time, Il Sedano Allegro. It was there that I tasted my first bowl of ribollita, and fell helplessly in love with it.

One of my favorite vegan chefs and cookbook authors, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau prepared her vegan Three-Greens Ribollita Soup for the McDougall Celebrity Chef Weekend back in June of this year. I followed the recipe precisely, except I noticed the absence of tomatoes in the ingredients list (probably a typo), so I added a 14-oz can of diced tomatoes. The soup was nicely thickened, and tasted phenomenal with hunks of lightly toasted French bread. I can't wait to have it again for lunch today! Of course, I'll be reboiling it.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Kind Diet

"How can he be possessed of kindness, who to increase his own flesh, eats the flesh of creatures?" ~Thiruvalluvar, Tamil Poet c. 2nd century BC

Vegan actress and animal-rights activist Alicia Silverstone's new book, The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet offers a bounty of helpful ideas for choosing and preparing foods that are good for our bodies, the animals, and the planet. Meals are planned around those foods which provide optimum health and vitality, focusing on fresh, organic, plant-based ingredients. It would make an absolutely lovely gift for anyone who is looking for a way to eat more deliciously and healthfully, regardless of where they are on the vegan spectrum.

Photo © Lindsay S. Nixon and Happy Herbivore.

The Kind Diet is broken down into three levels: Flirting, Vegan, and Superhero. In "Flirting," Alica makes simple recommendations for weaning off the standard American diet with ideas like replacing a few meat-based meals with vegan ones and exploring the myriad of transitional vegan foods available. In the "Vegan" section, she presents a road map for how to build a vegan meal plan.

Focusing on ingredients like sea vegetables, mochi, agar-agar, umeboshi plum vinegar, and Gomashio, along with fresh, local, seasonal whole foods, the "Superhero" level is based on a macrobiotic style of cooking, which has long been associated with improved health. Alicia's own vibrantly beautiful, trim, energetic, and glowing appearance makes a powerfully convincing argument for how choosing these foods is indeed, a very kind thing we can do for ourselves. And readers need not be overwhelmed by the aforementioned exotic-sounding ingredients. They are readily available online, and most can be found at your local Asian grocery or natural foods store.

Excitedly, I spent the first night with my copy of The Kind Diet scanning all of the recipes, as I usually do with any new recipe book. The photographs were utterly mouth-watering, and I immediately honed in on the recipe for Nabeyaki Udon. Made with sumptuously thick udon noodles, shiitake and maitake mushrooms, (I could not find the latter, so used twice as many shiitake), gently cooked carrots, broccoli, leek, bok choy, napa cabbage, bean sprouts, and dandelion greens (which I also couldn't find, substituting delightfully fragrant jasmine greens, instead), and smartly seasoned with shoyu, ginger, and lemon juice. I also added one sliced red bell pepper, which made for an even more colorful and delicious dish.

I didn't think I was a big fan of polenta, having always found it rather bland and dry. But Alicia's Polenta Casserole with Seitan looked and sounded too good not to try.

I'm very glad I did, because this dish was one of the best dinners we've had in the last few months, far from being bland or dry. It made a polenta lover out of me. And since Alica suggested that a side of greens would make it absolutely perfect, I went back to one of my favorite go-to recipes, and served it up with Bryant Terry's Citrus Collards with Raisins Redux. It was perfect!

The Kind Diet contains a glorious selection of desserts that will satisfy any sweet tooth. Lemon-Poppyseed Pound Cake, Mixed Berry Cheesecake, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups are just a few. I decided to try something that sounded light and fruity, Candied Ginger Pears. Made with brown rice syrup, pear juice, lemon, and ginger, it was a lovely departure from the usual cakes, cookies, ice cream, and pies.

Oh, and if you're wondering if I was able to remain true to the McDougall diet, while enjoying the recipes in this book, the answer is yes! None of the recipes I prepared contained any oil, and only a bit of tahini or whole nuts. Speaking of nuts, Dr. McDougall has an insightful article about them in his most current newsletter, which you can read here.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Hopi Corn and Chili Stew

I lived in New Mexico for five years, and I left a piece of my heart in the sunny Southwest. The time I spent there is brimming with memories of endless skies, meteor showers, pueblo-style architecture, the magical view of the Milky Way from the Adobe and Stars Bed and Breakfast, shopping for Native American art and jewelry on the Santa Fe plaza, hot air balloons sailing over my house, Christmas luminarias, moonrises over the Sandia mountains, coyotes howling outside my bedroom window, roadrunners, jackrabbits, and magpies moving swiftly past my car, chile ristras hanging outside quaintly painted wooden door frames, and the heavenly aromas of Navajo fry bread and New Mexican sopapilla. I don't think one can live in the Southwest and not feel immersed in Native American culture. While living in New Mexico, I traveled to Arizona and Colorado often—from Tucson to Kingman and Crestone to Boulder. For a short time, the Southwest was my stomping grounds, and I was able to enjoy the culinary influences of the Native American people who lived there.

The Hopi Indians have inhabited the dessert highlands of northern Arizona for the last 1,000 years. The name Hopi, is a shortened form of what these people call themselves, Hopi'sinom, or "People Who Live in the Correct Way." The catholic encyclopedia lists the name Hopi as having been derived from "Hopita," meaning "those who are peaceful ones." Hopi is a concept deeply rooted in the culture's religion and spirituality, and its view of morality and ethics. It involves a state of total reverence and respect for all things, to be at peace with these things, and to live in accordance with the instructions of Maasaw, the Creator or Caretaker of Earth.

Starch-based foods like corn, beans, and potatoes have always been an important part of the Hopi diet. Mary McDougall's rich and flavorful Hopi Corn and Chili Stew plays on these staple foods beautifully. It's another deliciously hearty, warming, low-fat vegan dish. I wish I'd come across this recipe while I was still living in New Mexico!