Sunday, March 29, 2009

Purely Decadent and Soy/Dairy Free!

One of my biggest hurdles with a dairy/soy free diet is that ice cream is off the menu. I LOVE ice cream. When I was pregnant with my daughter, it was one of my biggest cravings...cliche, I know, but true. So giving up ice cream was hard. Still is. I miss it. Thankfully, life as I know it is not over because...drum roll, please....there are alternatives.....
First let me say that it is absolutely imparative that you read labels. Things that seem like they might be safe are not always. For example, there are a lot of rice milk-based ice creams on the market. They taste pretty good and there are a plethora of flavors to satisfy most cravings. But many of them contain soy. So always check. I think that should be my motto. HA!
In any case, this post is suppose to be a product review, so I'll get to it.
The best alternative I've found to dairy ice cream is coconut milk ice cream. It's actually really good, although not exactly the healthiest of choices...but hey, who ever said ice cream was healthy? Am I right?
Purely Decadent has several coconut milk ice cream flavors. My favorite is their chocolate.

They also have vanilla bean (which has a pretty strong coconut flavor, in my opinion), coconut, passionate mango, and mocha almond fudge, which is quite good. If you don't like coconut, this product is probably not for you. The chocolate and mocha almond fudge flavors have a pretty subtle coconut flavor, but if you're a coconut hater, like my husband, you will taste it.
Now back to my motto - always check the labels! Purely Decadent makes a few delicious sounding coconut ice creams that DO contain soy...the above mentioned flavors are safe though. OK. 'Nough said. Happy ice cream eating!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies That Won't Give You a Heart Attack

So I love cookies and it's been hard to find recipes that don't call for butter (or any butter substitutes, since those all contain soy). I have found a few recipes for chocolate chip cookies that call for shortening, and you can safely use Spectrum All Vegetable Shortening in those. My big problem with this route is that Spectrum shortening is 100% palm oil, which is not exactly healthy. Don't get my wrong, this will do when the cookie monster strikes, and it works great in other products (i.e. PIE CRUST!!!), but sometimes I don't want to be feel sooo guilty when I enjoy a treat. My other issue with subing shortening for butter in cookie recipes is that it makes the cookies crispier. If you like crispy cookies, well, then you're in luck! I like soft cookies, so here I am.

But I digress...this post is really about a great Web site I discovered called Cookie Madness. This blogger has some seriously good looking cookies on her site and about a million recipes. You could spend days perusing all the choices. But let me save you some time....I found one of her recipes and tried it out tonight. YUM! Had to share. These are soft, tasty, and dairy/soy free (with a few modifications, of course). HA! And they're not terrible for you because they use apple sauce...which I swear you can't taste in the final product. I should also mention that these happen to be vegan, if that appeals to you. So here's my take on the Cookie Madness Genius!

Oatmeal-Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • 1 cup quick cook oats

  • 1/2 cup plus 4 tablespoons flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 4 tablespoons canola oil

  • 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar

  • 4 tablespoons granulated sugar

  • 4 tablespoons applesauce

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

  • 1/2 cup natural type peanut butter

  • 1/2 cup dairy/soy free chocolate chips (there are several brands, check Whole Foods and read labels) or chop up an Equal Exchange Chocolate bar

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
    In a medium bowl, combine oats, flour, baking soda, and salt.
    Stir oil and both sugars together in a medium bowl. It’s okay to do this with a spoon – no need to pull out the electric mixer. Beat in applesauce, peanut butter, and vanilla. Add flour mixture and stir until blended. Stir in chocolate chips.
    Using about 2 tablespoons of dough, form dough into balls and place on ungreased baking sheet. Flatten slightly. Bake until edges are golden brown, about 9-10 minutes, Cool on sheets 5 minutes. Transfer to racks; cool completely. Cookies will firm up as they cool.

    Makes about 16-18 cookies

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Product Review: Lake Champlain Mocha Hot Chocolate Mix

I mentioned this product in my post on making iced lattes and mochas. So if you haven't read that post, be sure to check it out.

As you may have already discovered, it's hard to find a hot chocolate mix that doesn't contain dairy or the ever evil soy lechtin. Recently, I discovered this great brand at Whole Foods: Lake Champlain Mocha Hot Chocolate Mix

I tried making hot chocolate with it, using both rice milk and oat milk, and neither was particularly appealing. Rice milk works OK, but it doesn't mask that rice milk flavor - if you've tried using rice milk in lattes, you know what I mean. :)

However, I have found a great use for this product! It's excellent added to your morning cup of coffee. I find oat milk makes a nice replacer for half and half, so if you want a good cup of coffee, make a nice strong cup with your favorite beans, add some oat milk, and a heaping spoonful of this mocha hot chocolate mix. Yum! Definitely a good way to start the day.

You CAN Have an Iced Latte/Mocha - Starbucks Style!

I live in Seattle, and I'll admit it. I'm a coffee snob. So when Starbucks came out with their new instant coffee, called Starbucks Via, I was completely seemed like brand confusion to me. Why would Starbucks want to market instant coffee next to their ultra expensive designer lattes? And no one can tell me that instant coffee is as good as freshly ground beans. Sorry. I don't get it.

So you might be wondering why I'm writing a blog entry about them in a blog on being dairy and soy free. Well, as much as I think Starbucks is seriously confused for introducing this product, I have to say that as a coffee-loving, dairy and soy free individual, these handly little pouches of caffiene have made a nice addition to my beverage menu. When I first gave up soy and dairy, I realized it put a serious crimp in my coffee drinking. I miss going to Starbucks in the afternoon for an iced latte or mocha. But with the introduction of Starbucks Via, I'm now able to enjoy an iced mocha or latte that's pretty dang good.
If you live in Seattle or Chicago, you can buy Starbucks Via at any of their stores. Otherwise, you have to order off their Web site. A pack of 12 costs $9.95 and each packet makes one drink.

Iced Dairy/Soy Free Latte (or Mocha)

  1. Mix one packet of Starbucks Via in a tall glass with 8 oz. cold oat milk.
  2. Stir until the coffee completely dissolves.
  3. Add sugar if you like your lattes a bit sweet, or to make a mocha, add a heaping spoonfull of your favorite dairy and soy-free cocoa mix. I've found Lake Champlain Mocha Hot Chocolate at Whole Foods works well. Read labels - it can be hard to find a hot chocolate mix that's dairy and soy free.
  4. Add some ice and taste. Depending on how intense you like your coffee, you may need to add some more oat milk if it's too strong.

That's it. Grab a straw and enjoy!

Baked Oatmeal - I Promise it's Good!

I'm a busy mom. But I just don't have time to spend a lot of energy in the kitchen in the morning, and I need a breakfast that's fast, easy, tasty, and good for me. Recently, I did some Web browsing in search of something that would fit the above requirements. Thanks to a genius named Tracy, who posted a recipe on, I was able to find the perfect breakfast fare...with some tweaking and revisions, of course, to make it dairy and soy free!

The beauty of this recipe is that you whip it together the night before, stash it in the fridge overnight, and toss it in the oven for 35 min. while you're showering and dressing in the morning. It's great when you have company (just tried it with the in-laws over the holidays), and it heats up beautifully for a snack or a second day on the breakfast table.

So without further ado, here is my take on lovely Tracy's baked oatmeal.....

Baked Oatmeal with Fruit
Prep time: 10 min. (the night before)
Bake time: 35 min. (the next morning)

1/2 c. vegetable oil (or apple sauce)
1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 c. rice milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1 T baking powder
3 c. quick cooking oats
1/2 c. fresh or frozen fruit of your choice (blueberries, raspberries, peaches, etc.)
1 apple, grated (no need to peel)
1-2 generous dashes cinnamon

Mix the oil and sugar in a bowl. Add the eggs, milk, salt, and baking powder, and mix well. Add the oats. Add the fruit, grated apple, and cinnamon. Mix. Pour into a square pyrex pan or pie pan. Cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the oatmeal, uncovered for ~35 min, or until it's slightly brown around the edges and soft/firm to the touch in the center.

To serve, cut or spoon a portion into a bowl and pour warm milk rice milk over the top. Note that my husband likes it dry (without the milk). So you could try that too!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Comfort Food...All Grown Up

Last night we whipped together a great comfort food dinner, but thanks to the dairy and soy free diet restrictions we ended up classing things up a bit. On the menu....Fancy Chicken "Fingers" with Not-So-Poor Poor Man's Pasta. Sounds good, doesn't it?!?! HA!
As you may have already discovered, those easy store-bought Italian bread crumbs that made baked chicken so easy are packed full of dairy and soy, along with a host of other not-so-tastey additives. But never fear, there is an alternative that's even better...panko! Panko is the Japanese version of bread crumbs, and they have an extra nice crunch to them that you just don't get with run-of-the-mill breadcrumbs. You'll find panko next to said breadcrumbs in the grocery store.
Poor Man's Pasta is a great, fast recipe that my friend Emily shared with me. It's called Poor Man's Pasta because it calls for very few ingredients, of which you likely have in your pantry. The best thing about this recipe for the dairy and soy free diet is that it uses breadcrumbs instead of parmesan cheese, which ends up giving you the feeling that you're eating pasta with parmesan cheese, when of course you're not...and parmesan cheese is something I miss dearly. The reason my version is a not-so-poor Poor Man's Pasta is two-fold...1)I use panko, instead of basic breadcrumbs, and 2)I like to add fresh green beans or peas for a nice fresh crunch.
I apologize in advance for the lack of measurements for these recipes, but it truely does depend on how much you're making. Feel free to post comments if you have questions.
Grown Up Chicken Fingers
Skinless boneless chicken breasts
Panko breadcrumbs
Dry spice rub of your choice (I recommend Napa Style Toasted Spice Rub)
BBQ Sauce for dipping (I recommend Tom Douglas Redhook Brewery BBQ Sauce)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the chicken between plastic wrap and pound thin using a mallet or rolling pin (about 1/2 inch thick or less). The thinner the chicken, the fast it will bake. Cut the chicken into strips. In a small bowl, mix the panko with the spice rub. Don't skimp on the spices - you want some good flavor here. Press both sides of the chicken into the panko spice mix and place the coated chicken on a cookie sheet. Bake in the oven until the internal temperature of the chicken is 165 degrees and the coating is lightly browned. Serve with BBQ sauce for dipping.
Not-So-Poor Poor Man's Pasta
Spaghetti or linguini noodles
Fresh green beans or pea pods, cut in half
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
Olive oil
Black pepper
Panko breadcrumbs
Blanche the green beans or pea pods in boiling water until just tender (about 2 min. for beans and 30 sec. for the peas). Set aside in some ice water to help keep their bright green color. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. While the pasta cooks, heat a small skillet over low/med. heat. Add several good "glugs" of olive oil (enough to coat the pasta). Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, being careful not to burn. Remove from heat. When the pasta is done cooking, drain and add back to the pot. Add the garlic and oil, and the beans or peas. Add a generous amount of panko breadcrumbs and several grinds of fresh black pepper. Serve with the chicken fingers.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Make a Sandwich and Eat it Too!

When you can't have dairy, sandwiches lose some of their luster...there's just something about a cheese-less sandwich that seems so lacking...but I've found a great alternative that's completely soy and dairy free.
A few things to note about this sandwich and ensuring that it's completely dairy and soy must read the labels on the supermarket breads. Many of them contain dairy and even more of them will contain soy. Try the freshly baked breads in the grocery store bakery. Local brands are also a good bet. If at all possible, bake your own bread.
Secondly, as you have probably discovered, most mayo contains soy. Fret not! There is hope...and it's called Spectrum brand canola mayonnaise. I've found it at WholeFoods, PCC, and even TopFoods...check the natural foods section of your local grocery store.
Chicken Salad Sandwich with Arugula
2 thick slices dairy/soy free bread of your choice
Canned chunk chicken in water
Spectrum canola mayonnaise
Pickle relish (I prefer Wickles)
Freshly ground black pepper
Mix the chicken with a couple of spoonfuls of mayo until the chicken is just careful not to add too much, thus resulting in a soggy sandwich. Add a few generous spoonfuls of relish and a couple of good grinds of pepper. Mix well.
Toast your bread (vital - do not skip this step - I swear it "makes" the sandwich).
While the bread is still piping hot, pile the chicken salad on and top with arugula and the final slice of bread. Note that while other types of greens (bib lettuce, red leaf, etc) are all nice, the spicy tang of the arugula really are key to this sandwich's succes.
That's it! Enjoy!!!!

Crazy Good Banana Muffins

I just made these delicious dairy and soy free banana muffins, and simply had to share. I promise you won't miss the dairy in these, and my dairy and soy eating husband thought they were great.
The recipe for these muffins is a modification from the Food Network Kitchens' Banana Muffin recipe, and it's absolutely vital that you use very ripe bananas in order to ensure good flavor.
I hope you enjoy these as much as we did!

Crazy Good Banana Muffins
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 cups smashed, very ripe bananas (about 4 to 6 bananas)
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup plain rice milk
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a 12-muffin tin with muffin liners. Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, brown sugar, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl; set aside. Whisk the banana, oil, rice milk, eggs, salt, and vanilla in another bowl. Make a small well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour wet ingredients into the center; then stir with a wooden spoon until the dry ingredients are just moistened but still lumpy. Do not overmix the batter or your muffins will come out dense. Divide the batter evenly into the muffin tin, filling each cup to the top. Put the muffins in the oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the cooking. (Insert a toothpick into the center of a muffin to check if it is done. Toothpick should come out clean). Cool muffins in the pan on a rack for a couple minutes. Turn the muffins out of the pan and cool on the rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Heart of the Matter

When I first found out that I needed to eliminate soy and dairy from my diet, the immediate question was, if I can't drink milk, and I can't drink soy milk, what do I drink?
Luckily, there are a lot of "milk" alternatives on the market today, and in all honesty, it's really a matter of personal preference. I don't have a perfect milk or soy depends on how sweet you like your milk alternative and what you're using it for.
I should mention right off the bat that some milk alternatives contain soy...almond milk being the big culprit. So always, always check labels. Here's a quick rundown of the milk alternatives that I've tried and my general thoughts and recommendations on them. But your best bet is really to go to PCC or Whole Foods and load up your cart with one of everything you can try. Be prepared to toss any that turn you off (I certainly wasted some money in this endevour), but it's hard to find what you like without being willing to try things.
  • Oat Milk: I'm listing this first because it's my favorite. When I'm craving a glass of milk, this is what I grab. It's comforting, with a oatmeal sort of taste, but is really quite nice, and has a good thickness. It's one of the thickest milk alternatives I've found - closest in consistency to soy milk. I tried heating it up for hot chocolate - big mistake. I've found this is best either ice cold for drinking straight, or any temperature if you're adding it to coffee. Speaking of coffee, this is my add-in of choice. It is the most mild (unlike rice milk, which gives coffee an odd flavor, in my opinion), and it gives the coffee the right caramel color that I'm so used to with my half and half. What can I saw, drinking coffee is very ritualistic, and these things are important. HA!
  • Rice Milk: Great alternative for diary replacement in baking - be sure to get the Original (not vanilla). My Costco carries Rice Dream Original rice milk and I buy it there and store the aseptic containers in the garage. I go through them quickly, so this is a good cost saver. Rice milk works well as a replacement for milk on cereal, and I've found great success replacing it 1:1 with milk in french toast, pancakes, cornbread, etc. It doesn't have a lot of fat/binding, so you have to experiment, but in baked goods, you can't even tell the difference. My husband can confirm this. Rice Dream brand also makes a few other rice milk-based beverages, including a Vanilla, Chocolate, Chocolate Chai, Vanilla Hazelnut, and Horchata (cinnamon rice milk). All three of these are really sweet, but if you like sweet or want something special to add to your morning coffee, give them a try.
  • Nut Milk: There are a variety of these. Hazenut milk is a popular one. It's much sweeter then oat or rice milk. You might try it in coffee, but I found it left a bit of an oily sheen on the top of my joe and it turned me off. And in all honesty, it's just too sweet for my liking. Try different ones and see what you like, but as I mentioned above, be careful with almond milk - most labels I've read contain soy.
  • Hemp Milk: Haven't tried this yet. I'll let you know what I think when I get around to it.
  • Coconut Milk: This is a decent option for recipes for puddings and ice cream. I haven't experimented much with using coconut milk as a milk replacement, but I'll keep everyone updated. Just know that this is a safe alternative.

One final note - if milk and soy alternatives are new to you, look in the Natural Foods section of your grocery store. You won't find these in the cold case - they're on the shelves, usually with the juice, in aseptic cartons that you only have to store in the refrigerator once you open them. They are generally fresh, once opened, for 7-10 days.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Kickin' it off!

I have always loved dairy. When I was pregnant with my daughter (now 7 1/2 months old), ice cream was a serious staple in my diet. Cheese is good. Mmmmm. My family are foodies. We eat at restaurants a lot. We take vacations that are centered around food. Most of my immediate family members are phenomenal cooks, who rely heavily on cream and butter.
I also like soy. My favorite drinks at Starbucks are soy-based and I LOVE Asian foods and soy sauce.
So it was a serious blow when I found out my new baby daughter was allergic to both soy and dairy. My husband and I had two options, switch her from breast milk to a special, allergy-free formula (which we were informed was very expensive and did not taste good), or switch me to a soy and dairy-free diet.
My husband and I didn't want to give up the benefits of breastfeeding for our daughter, and since the diet would be temporary (until our daughter was done breastfeeding), the choice seemed pretty clear. I had done an elimination diet in the past, that included dairy, so I knew what it meant to give up certain foods and adjust your diet and eating routines. So mentally I felt prepared. But I also knew that it would be a challenge.
I've been dairy and soy-free for 4 months now, and I won't lie - eating dairy and soy free is hard. Doing it for my daughter and her health makes it a really easy choice, and I'm certainly not complaining, but it's been a challenge to cook good food, eat out, satisfy cravings, and go to the grocery store without getting slightly depressed and frustrated.
I've done a lot of research, read a million food labels, and tried a lot of nasty, alternative products and recipes. But amid all the food chaos, I've found some real winners. I've discovered some wonderful products and even some recipes I'll continue to make even after I'm back on dairy and soy. My hope with this blog is to share what I've learned with other people that are faced with a dairy and soy-free diet. And maybe I can help make your journey a little bit easier.