Cooking Middle Eastern

Cooking Middle Eastern

Can I cook tikka masala?

I just posted on the McDougall Friends group on Facebook, I am getting tired of cooking the same old thing, week after week. Thankfully this IS something I have complete control over as I do a majority of the cooking. I am still open to preparing potato enchiladas for my wife, since she loves the flavor of them. Scouring the many websites I have collected and the few vegan/vegetarian cookbooks I have purchased, I am still at somewhat of a loss when it comes to cooking Middle Eastern recipes

Recently I was turned on to a Middle Eastern market called International Foods in Concord, CA (that is how Yelp lists it). I had been searching for chickpea flour and fava beans at a reasonable price. This small nondescript market had a wide variety of freshly cook foods, breads and ingredients for many Middle Eastern/Indian recipes. I was able to purchase chana besan and fava beans, as an added bonus, freshly cooked naan bread. The best part of this bread, it’s fat free, egg free (dairy), cholesterol free and contains no preservatives! It seems to be “McDougall Approved!”

Since changing my diet I have made a few different batches of hummus, all oil free. Some have told me it’s not hummus without oil. To each their own I guess I don’t use the “heart healthy” *sarcasm* olive oil since I don’t want the added fat and have done away with adding oil to my recipes. Another dish I am preparing better, baked falafel either in patty or ball form. Patties seem to bake better with a subtle crunch revealing a warm, moist inside. One dish I failed with, but will prepare better next time, dal palak.With this sudden find of naan bread I have been looking for dishes to accompany this wonderful tasting bread. I will also mention tabbouleh, but that was a box mix I purchased at Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market.

Today I found a tofu tikka masala recipe that I hope to add to my list of favorites. While the original recipe includes 2 1/2 tablespoons of EVOO (thanks Rachel!), 1/2 a tablespoon to bake the tofu with and 2 tablespoons for the gravy that will be slathered over the dish. I don’t think this recipe will miss that amount of oil and definitely won’t add to the flavor. While I am not sure I an sell my wife on the tofu, I will still give it a shot. I will serve it over rice and if she isn’t into the tofu, then mixed veggies might work.

Back to Basics

I’ve been frustrated recently while searching out more plant-based recipes for my new found lifestyle. It’s been challenging at times, outside of using the recipes found in the McDougall Newsletters or on the McDougall Discussion Boards (MWL and non-MWL, which means “maximum weight loss”), vegan and vegetarian recipes alike rarely make the grade. That’s not to say the recipes don’t look delicious, many do and would rival many non-vegan dishes.

Why? It’s the overabundance (at times) of fat in the recipes, from butters to oil and soy products and creams. As I wrote previously in my piece, Fat Vegan, sometimes eating this way isn’t any healthier. While my dietary guidelines are more strict, limiting fat intake to 10% a day I don’t see my way of eating above that of vegans. Based solely on recipes a plant-based, whole food lifestyle is more healthy when you cut out dairy, oils and meats that could promote disease, like arteriosclerosis and heart disease.

Thankfully I have already reaped benefits from this way of eating to reduce my susceptibility. I am determined to keep this lifestyle, as long as I put food on the table that my family enjoys, which reduces fats, cholesterol and those unhealthy ingredients, why shouldn’t I try? Thankfully we have a few staples we return week after week, but adding new dishes to the menu plan is always beneficial, but hasn’t been an easy task.

Maybe I am trying too hard to convert recipes to make them compliant with how I want to eat and how I would like to feed my family. Instead of looking for substitutes and experimenting with dishes (which is fun at times), I might look at staying with simple, easy recipes that Dr. McDougall and his wife, Mary talk about. I am already looking at The McDougall Quick & Easy Cookbook, which contains 300 plant-based recipes that should provide many good meals.

Cooking Within Limitations

Cooking. I enjoy to cook, never have been trained in the culinary arts, so I guess you could call me self-taught. I have watched many of the Food Network shows, just to watch the food preparation and the recipes. Changing my diet to a plant-based, whole foods lifestyle has not been as difficult as I expected. What is great about this way of eating, being able to experiment even more with food.

Tell a chef to make a dish with 3 ingredients and I am sure many could put together a very good meal. Take away 3 ingredients, in my case, meat, dairy and oil and the task of cooking becomes challenging. It’s one I am up to and I am always on the lookout for new recipes that might go over well with the family.

Neither my wife of son have embraces the “plant strong lifestyle” 100%, I will give them both credit, they are eating many of the recipes I keep trying. In fact my wife now weighs less than when she had our son, Zachary, something she had not been able to accomplish with some of the “fad diets” she had put herself on.

As for my son, we still feed him processed foods that are quick and easy, such as chicken nuggets and french fries, but I have been able to pass of a few healthier options on him. A few weeks back I was able to get him to eat a spicy black bean burger on an thin whole wheat bun. I did include a small slice of American cheese, but hey, it’s a start. He now eats my spaghetti and pasta, which is also whole wheat and the sauce is homemade and includes no oil. So while we are still giving him some of those kid favorites, I am introducing him to some new foods.

Co-workers make comments about me not eating meat or being vegan or vegetarian, rarely do I correct them. Many recipes that follow vegan and vegetarian guidelines include dairy and oil in preparation. The McDougall way of eating does not include either, which is where the challenge comes in. But with everything else in cooking, there are substitutes. I spoke about it yesterday, but I miss cheese. Thankfully I have made a cheese sauce a few times that I find satisfying. There are some others that I have on my list to try.

There are also foods that I never ate growing up as a kid. The two most recent foods I have tried and really enjoy, sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts! The sweet potato could be the “perfect food.” It’s high in fiber but low in sodium and cholesterol, it’s sweet, but gives you good nutritional value, the proteins in a sweet potato have antioxidant effects and  it’s a filling meal in itself.

Recently found a very cool web site called The Post Punk Kitchen and while I have yet to try any of Isa’s recipes I do have plans to. They look great and I am sure taste the same. So you don’t think you can eat this way, the compromise and make one day or even one meal, like dinner without meat, dairy or oil. You might be surprised at just how good it is. My suggestion: Potato Enchiladas, Skillet Refried Beans and Mexican Rice (with or without Pinto Beans).

Meat Free Dishes

It’s been a few weeks since I really have spent much time in the kitchen cooking dinner. Tired, busy and really just no motivation dirty the kitchen put together a meal. Since my physical I am reevaluating how I eat. I’ll be honest, my diet is not good, but it’s not too terribly bad. I know, I don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables on a daily basis and probably drink a bit too much beer on my days off. But I really avoid sweets and don’t over eat, which seems to be a common problem in the U.S.

In the past I have prepared a few recipes from Cooking Light and happened to pick up the most recent copy at the supermarket. I did some further reading about cooking to reduce cholesterol, but not lose flavor or enjoyment of cooking. I started out with a few vegetarian dishes that really lost none of the flavor without including meat.

Last week I started with a Vegetarian Chili that featured black beans, kidney beans and pinto beans. I mixed this with diced garlic and an onion, as well as a green and yellow pepper, some roasted, diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. The flavor was very good, the chili was quite chunky. My wife believes I should have cooked the peppers a bit longer, as they did have a bit of a crunch to them. Still, it had a good flavor and is definitely something I will experiment with in the coming months.

Last night I found a Mexican Casserole, again from the vegan section of Cooking Light online. Instead of ground beef, which is standard in chili this recipe uses veggie type, soy patties instead. I tossed them in the microwave and thawed and chopped the patties and then tossed them in the skillet to brown them with a bit of olive oil, garlic and onion. Once sauteed and the meatless patties crumbled and browned I added that to a Pyrex casserole dish I had lined with tortilla chip (cholesterol free chip in fact).

Adding a bit more oil I added black beans and pinto beans to the pan and began mashing them, stirred in a little lime juice until I had a good consistency akin to refried beans, but a bit chunkier. To this I added roasted, diced tomatoes and diced, green chilies. Once this was mixed I added cilantro, chili powder and cumin. This mixture was the next layer over the meatless layer. On top of that I added another layer of tortilla chips, topped off with some jack cheese, sliced black olives and green onions. I baked it at 375 degrees for 13 minutes.

Much like the chili there is good flavor, some of the reviews complained of the casserole being “dry” mine was anything but. I believe that’s because I added the diced tomatoes. Sure there was about 20mg of cholesterol in the jack cheese, but cholesterol is fine since it’s something your body produces naturally.

Just how good was it? Unlike the chili my wife had two good sized helpings and did not mind that it was meatless using the soy patties. I too enjoyed the flavored of the dish and will probably end up making this again as a alternative to some of the other Mexican dishes I enjoy cooking. Now if I could only dress up tofu a bit more so my wife couldn’t fully taste it, but unlike the soy patties, tofu has a unique texture. Might not be so easy…

I’m Hungry!

On the heels of being told my LDL (bad) cholesterol is high by my doctor I am rethinking how I cook. Gone, but not completely forgotten are some of the recipes that taste wonderful, but are extremely high in cholesterol. My problem really doesn’t stem my cooking habits. I am conscience of what I use when I cook, but I believe the problem is when I eat at work.

Being located in downtown Oakland, next to Chinatown it’s been real tempting to not pack a lunch and take a walk to the many sidewalk restaurants that make up the district. Of course some of the favorite foods I eat are fried. Not sure I really want to know just how bad many of these foods are, but they are delightful.

As I sit here typing, the stomach is rumbling just thinking about some of the foods I will have to eat less of. Anything in moderation is okay, the doctor even said, make these foods the exception now, not the norm. While easier said than done it will take few weeks to start working on new dishes that will delight and taste good, while cutting down (and out) some of the things I should not be eating.

Even flipping through a magazine like Cooking Light many recipes may be low in certain nutritional values , like calories or fat, but I have noticed “cooking light” does not necessarily mean low cholesterol. A vegan lifestyle is highly unlikely, but taking the occasional recipe from this form of food preparation is a possibility. I found an entire list of healthy vegetarian Curried recipes at Cooking Light for starters. I’ll start preparing more fish, along with skinless chicken and some pork. Hopefully in 8 weeks I will see a drop in the LDL count.