Monday, January 17, 2011

Mushroom Ragu – The Wine Free Version

No huge surprise the scale was not my friend this morning. However given the amount of fat I had last night I am lucky it only went up 0.7 pounds. ;-)

Even though we were up later than normal last night we headed to Whole Foods this morning not long after they opened. We couldn’t let ourselves run out of kale now could we?

While we were at Whole Foods I also picked up some arugula, fresh parsley, powdered ginger, aged sherry vinegar and coconut extract. I have been looking for the coconut extract for a while so I have take non dairy milk and add the extract to make it “coconut milk” without the saturated fat. I will use more “coconut milk” if this trick works. I will keep you posted.

Once we got home we had green smoothies (kale and banana, et al). I had Dan taste mine since it didn’t have any walnuts to see what he thought. He fussed a little (for sport I think) and when he put the glass to his nose he declared, “It smells like the lawnmower”. Only my husband would come up with things like that, at least that is how it feels to me. After he tasted it he decided it was palatable but that he prefers the version I make for him with double the bananas and a handful of walnuts.

Since I like to use dried mushrooms in my mushroom ragu to give it a meaty chew I got those soaking right after breakfast. I like the ragu to simmer as long as possible. Today I decided to change the ragu recipe and didn’t tell Dan since I knew he would not approve. When he likes things he doesn’t want them to change. He will be fine don’t worry, LOL. This time I wanted to find out how the ragu would work out without wine. What? Shocking I know. Since many people can’t have alcohol due to prescription drug interactions I thought I should see what I could do to make an alcohol free version. Here is what I did:

Mushroom Ragu – The Wine Free Version
Serves 8


10 cups dried mixed mushrooms (I use the ones they sell at Costco)
water to rehydrate those mushrooms
1 quart diced tomatoes, preferably no salt (or 2 – 15 ounce cans)
1 pint tomato sauce (or 15 ounce can)
2 large yellow onions, peeled and roughly chopped
10 cloves garlic, peeled and mince
1 teaspoon thyme, dried
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon vegan Worcestershire sauce (the regular stuff has anchovies)
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
8 olives, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast (not enough to be cheezy just to add a little background flavor)


Combine the dried mushrooms and water and heat to boil. Then cover the container/pot and allow the mushrooms to soak for at least 30 minutes.

Once the onions and garlic have been sliced/minced and sat for 10 minutes you can start the sauce. Combine all the ingredients except the mushrooms and simmer the sauce in a partially covered pot.

Strain the mushrooms soaking liquid thru cheese cloth or damp paper towel in a sieve and add that to the sauce. Also add the mushrooms and simmer the sauce until you like the consistency. This cooked for 2 hours at my house. When you are ready to serve taste the sauce for seasoning and adjust the flavors to your palate. If the sauce isn’t thick enough you can thicken it with a slurry of cornstarch or arrowroot.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 202.67
Calories From Fat (5%) - 10.48

Total Fat - 1.16g
Saturated Fat - 0.21g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 395.17mg
Potassium - 1156.25mg
Total Carbohydrates - 45.79g
Fiber - 7.81g
Sugar - 7.7g
Protein - 6.43g

This ragu has nice flavor and complexity but it doesn’t have the jammy quality of my version with the entire bottle of Amarone wine. However the prior version is much more expensive because of the wine. Not to mention not everyone likes the flavor wine which is still a mystery to me. ;-) While I know it isn’t good for me I still the love the taste and aroma.

Overall this worked out well and I will make it again. You could change this by varying the grain you serve it on. You can also add fresh parsley to this at the end which would be nice. It would be nice with a drizzle of balsamic glaze. I would like this with pine nuts but walnut parmesan would also be good.

While the mushroom ragu was simmering away we had a snack of a tangerine, two Brazil nuts and a few dried plums.

When lunch time came around we had a bowl of the mushroom ragu over brown rice. We choose brown rice because we thought a larger grain would be called for and weren’t in the mood for the traditional polenta. You could also put this over al dente whole wheat pasta. We don’t eat much pasta but that would be good.

To accompany the mushroom ragu we had a small side salad which contained: mesclun, red bell peppers, marinated mushrooms, cucumber and a few sliced almonds. I dressed the greens with a quick dressing of Dijon, red wine vinegar and stevia which is my healthy version of honey mustard dressing.

Our afternoon snack was cucumber slices with the okara spread I made on Friday. I dressed the okara with white and black sesames seeds, and pulverized dried ginger.

We both had a good sized salad of: mesclun, grapes, mango and strawberries which I topped with sliced almonds. I didn’t add any dressing since the fruit was juicy and ripe. Dan also had a bowl of Moroccan chickpea stew over rice for the calories.

All day Sunday I was feeling a little lethargic which I attributed to the fat in the tempura veggies on Saturday. They were good going down but I could tell my body wasn’t too happy with the fact that I had consumed them. This caused me to think about fat and the fatty acid composition of commonly used oils. I thought you might be interested in this too. If you are read on, otherwise skip to the next section.

Saturated Fat in Non-Animal Products:

One of the reasons I am not such a fan of oils besides that they are processed it that using them makes it easy to overeat saturated fat. Now I can imagine what you are thinking about now is “what is she talking about oils aren’t animal products they don’t have much saturated fat?” I used to think that too but it isn’t true. Here are a few common oils and their percentages of saturated fat:

Canola – 6%
Coconut – 92%
Corn – 13%
Flaxseed – 9%
Extra Virgin Olive – 14%
Palm – 51%
Safflower – 10%
Sesame – 13%
Soy – 15%
Sunflower – 11%
Walnut – 16%

Other than coconut oil and palm oil the saturated fat percentages aren’t tremendously high but they also aren’t negligible either. One of the issues with consuming oil is that fiber and most of the trace elements are removed when the oil is created. The next issue is given how quickly nuts spoil are you sure your oil hasn’t gone bad? I store my nuts in the freezer so they don’t turn but how long do you keep oil in the house? If you are like I was it is probably longer than you should. Since our goal is to keep our fat percentage fairly low if I cook with oil then I would need to give up most of the nuts, seeds and avocado to make the numbers work. For me it doesn’t make sense to keep a product of inferior quality in our diet and remove something that is superior.

One interesting thing to think about is that many people tell you to keep your overall saturated fat consumption to 10 percent of total calories. Now you know that saturated fat isn’t just in animal products. Why doesn’t anyone in the mainstream ever mention the saturated fat in oils?

As you all know by now I am not a no-added-fat girl who believes 100% what doctors McDougall, Esselstyn or Campbell espouse. I believe that you need a little healthy fat in your meals to help your body absorb the fat soluble vitamins you are consuming. After all it doesn’t matter as much what you eat as what you can absorb. However I don’t think any of us should be eating an excess amount of fat either. I suppose in this respect my dietary theory is more like Dr. Fuhrman though I think I eat a bit more fat than he recommends.

The bottom line for us is that we try to keep our fat consumption low and have our fat come from the most nutritious sources. I guess I need to remind Ian about the low fat part of our diet the next time we see him. ;-) I will add though that if one of us had cardiac issues I would be reducing our fat consumption further. Thankfully that is one problem I don’t need to worry about now.

Happy Thoughts:

We had a great weekend which was wonderful. There was a lot of time of home being productive and a little time out surrounded by people we like and enjoy. Here are my happy thoughts today:

• It was wonderful to spend the entire weekend with Dan. Every weekend that he doesn’t need to work (either in his home office or downtown) is wonderful in my book. We had a nice time together even when we were being productive at home.

• I feel as though I am getting a better handle on how I spend my time after tracking it for a few days. I have learned that I am spending far too much time online and I am trying to back off on that where I can. Now I know why my friend Louis suggested that I needed a technology free day. LOL

• Today I took time to read a book which was great and a nice change from being online. I seem to need a little more downtime at the moment. I am not sure why this is but I am trying to listen to my body which isn’t how I always operate. ;-)

• I had an epiphany regarding fat consumption this weekend. I never realized how easy it was to listen to what your body was telling you until this weekend. I may try to experiment with other food to see if I can feel any impact after the fact. I am curious if I can feel anything after fruit or nut consumption/over consumption now. I love to use myself to experiment.

• It was wonderful to sleep in on Monday. We were planning to get up at 5am to go to the gym but neither of us slept well so we changed the alarm and went back to bed. Rest is just as important as exercise. I exercised after Dan went to work and he used the gym at work. Sometimes you need to be flexible and listen to your body.

• I am thrilled to be using my pressure cooker for beans. I was eye-opening to me that you don’t have to use oil to keep the foaming down. It would be nice it pressure cooking books written now made that clear. *rolls eyes* It is wonderful to have beans ready from start to finish in under an hour.

Signing out:

It is getting late and I need to start winding down so that we can make it to the gym tomorrow morning. While I will exercise at home I like knocking out my cardio before breakfast. That one simple thing helps me to start my day more quickly so that I can get more done during the day.

I hope Monday has treated everyone well. Talk to you again tomorrow.


  1. Sounds like a good Monday. It's always nice to get to sleep in and also to have reading time!

  2. Heather,

    It was definitely a good Monday! Let's hope the rest of the week goes as well. ;-)


  3. Yummy mushroom ragu! I just bought some shitake (wrong spelling) mushrooms at WF today for a coconut basil dish I am going to make.

    I love salads with lots of fruit on them, aside from that I am nt a huge salad person.


  4. Carissa,

    Your Thai mushroom dish sounds interesting can't wait to see it.

    I was never a salad person either but somehow now I crave them. No idea where that came from. ;-)

    enjoy what is left of your evening,

  5. I love prunes, as odd as that sounds. Great snacks and salads today.
    Also, please do let us know how you feel about the coconut extract with nondairy milk replacing coconut milk. I love the flavor but definitely not the fat, though I assume something else would be needed to add creaminess to a recipe it was subbed into.

  6. this whole blog had a very upbeat vibe to it. loved the beginning:) you and Dan are very sweet:)

    "We couldn’t let ourselves run out of kale now could we?"

    haha i can let that happen...easily:)lol

  7. Thanks for the oil section! And mmm mushroom ragu. Aww it's nice to see your grateful section was large today :)

    Q: There's a lot of talk of the saturated fats in plants being different than those found in meats (True?). Then I know the raw people go crazy at explaining how the saturated fats in coconut oil are medium chain triglycerides and are somehow better (?) I've been skeptical and would love to hear your take as you have the knowledge. (Only if you have the time)

  8. It sounds like you are feeling a bit better in yourself. Hope so anyway. Wow, that mushroom ragu is SO my kind of food, with or without the wine, though I'd probably prefer with as you can probably guess ;)

  9. Foodfeud (M),

    I like prunes too even though they aren't the most beautiful fruit. ;-)

    When I want a creamier non-dairy milk I add a couple of tablespoons of dried oats to the mix. You should try that, I think you will be surprised how creamy that makes the milk. But you could always thicken it with a little arrowroot too.

    I hope the weather that moved through here last night doesn't make a mess for you in NYC.

    have a good Tuesday,

  10. Michelle,

    Glad you enjoyed this one. It is good to hear I am starting to sound more like myself again.

    Dan "needs" his green smoothies every other day now. I think he has actually started to crave them. Running out of kale is as much as emergency here as running out of frozen bananas. LOL

    talk to you later,

  11. Possum,

    I thought you would be interested in the oil section. ;-)

    I had the same exact questions about the sat fat in coconut. I tried to find studies on the medium chain fatty acids and couldn't. I even asked my vegan RD buddy and she couldn't find anything either. Until there is some hard science behind it I am going to stay away from it. If I read anything that convinces me otherwise I will post it.

    Have a great Tuesday,

  12. Carol,

    I am starting to feel better. Thanks for your well wishes.

    Both Dan and I love mushrooms so mushroom ragu has been a favorite of ours for a long time.

    I love the flavor of red Italian wine. It is such a shame it is bad for you. I think I miss wine more than cheese and I was a cheeseaholic. Hmmm, I wonder what that says about me? LOL

    I hope you have a good Tuesday,

  13. Thank you for the wine-free version of your Ragu recipe. Thought you'd be interested to know, I don't use wine in my cooking because I'm alcoholic. I love to cook and when I first quit I thought my cooking would suffer. It hasn't. Although I must admit, I don't do too many recipe's that traditionally call for wine in the first place. I used to though! I used to go out of my way to have an excuse to "need" alcohol in the kitchen :-)

    I made the curried lentils! It is SOOO good. I did one extra thing which ruined it for my kids-I made it spicy. I added lots of chili powder and some red pepper flakes. YIKES. Husband loves spicy and I'm ok with it too. I'm already used to making a couple of different things since I've gone veg and no one else has. Sometimes they join me in a meat free meal, but usually I have to make 2 different things for dinner. Last night I made them meat sauce, and for me it was yummy crushed tomatoes with carrot, onion, garlic, mushroom and olive. Anyway, that lentil recipe will feed my husband and I lunch for a week or more, thanks!

  14. That mushroom ragu sounds fantastic--thanks for sharing the recipe. I just want to make sure I am reading it correctly, though--did you really use 10 cups of dried mushrooms? Does it make a huge amount? The other ingredients don't seem like that much, but with 10 cups of dried mushrooms, I imagine once they are rehydrated it must make a pretty large amount?


  15. Jenn,

    Glad I could help with the wine free version of the ragu. Thanks for letting me know.

    Thank you also for letting me know you liked the curried lentils. I love hot stuff too so I am sure I would love haved your version. The lentil soup should freeze well if you want to space it out.

    Wow, good for you making two different things at night. That is a lot of work you must be organized to pull that off. I am lucky that my hubby and I went veg together.


  16. Courtney,

    Yes it really was 10 cups of dried mushrooms. I made a vat of the stuff since I knew my parents and Dan both like mushrooms. I makes 8 big servings that were probably over 2 cups each. Also each serving is very 'shroomy if that makes sense.

    talk to you later,


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