Dairy Free Cooking Challenge: the first report

At the Santa Rosa Wednesday Market (which also has some produce stands) it’s all about the BBQ.  People just can’t get enough of meat on a grill.  The whole down town was a haze of meaty smoke.  I suppose this is really primal.  I guess the reason commercial BBQ stands don’t ever grill vegetables is because people don’t understand how to make an amazing grilled vegetable sandwich.  I could teach them a thing or two.

Years ago the Wednesday Market was the farmer’s market with some restaurant and craft stalls.  Then it became equal parts restaurant/craft stalls and produce stalls.  Now it’s almost all restaurant and craft stalls with just a few produce stalls.  This makes me sad.  However – what’s cool is that the farmers that are still showing up at the Wednesday market are the same ones that have been there since the first time I went.  All familiar faces to me and though they didn’t recognize me – it gave me pleasure and a sense of continuity to see them there – to buy from them again.  They are also at the actual farmer’s markets that run all year long – but I have yet to get to those because I am still waking up too late every day to get to them in time.

August is here and with it is the beginning of my challenge to cook without cheese.  I haven’t been 100% cheese free because I am still eating it out but since I can’t afford to go out much I haven’t eaten much cheese in a week.  (The first few days of August I still had cheese left over.)  Wanna know how I feel about it?

Mostly okay.  Definitely not excited about food much.  Thank god for avocados and hummus!  The best thing I’ve eaten since cooking without dairy is the mushroom and polenta dish I posted a couple of days ago.  That was so good I didn’t think about how much better it might be with some cheese.

I’m suddenly craving much saltier food.

I can’t hold my liquor as well.

I feel the need to eat more frequently.  This is not such a bad thing.  Typically I eat two really big meals a day and then a major snack late at night if I stay up.  Now I seem to be hungry all the time.

But really I don’t think I’m actually hungry all the time – I’m just craving cheese.

I do feel cleaner inside and I don’t know how to explain what I mean by that.  Animal products, even ones I love like cheese and eggs, have a sort of icky aspect to them.  They taste fantastic but they don’t always FEEL fantastic in my body.  I really don’t know how to describe it – eating the flesh of or foods made from the body parts of animals makes people smell a little like –


There, I said it.  I’m not trying to be obnoxious or mean or make any judgements about meat or dairy eating (because I LOVE eating cheese and eggs).  I’m simply saying that people do smell like the food they eat.  People who consume large amounts of vitamins (of the naturally made kind) often smell of vitamin.  People who eat a lot of garlic often smell of garlic (not in the classic garlic-breath kind of way – but more subtly – through their pores).

I admit that I’m especially sensitive to smells.

But my point was that I am feeling cleaner inside.  I imagine that if I quit eating eggs this feeling would be heightened.

It totally annoys me when people talk about eating “clean” because it definitely sounds like a judgement but I just can’t find a better word for it and I know what is meant by that word.

Anyway – I’m not really happy to be without cheese.  We went out to a mediocre restaurant (that’s putting it really nicely) this week that Max likes for the waffle fries and I ordered a sandwich called “The Caprese” which was a hamburger bun, fresh mozzarella cheese, onions cooked in balsamic, tomato, and pesto-mayonnaise.

I should not have ordered a cheese item featuring fresh mozzarella because this is one of the few cheeses that I find has zero flavor and whose texture is unpleasing.  I like the less fresh version of mozzarella or this one kind I bought from a farmer’s market that was freshly made mozzarella curds.  SO GOOD.  Anyway – the cheese was flavorless and terrible, the onions didn’t taste at all of balsamic vinegar, the mayonnaise had pesto in it?, and the tomato… also lacking in flavor.  Such a mad disappointment.

The good thing is that it didn’t remind me why I’m so grumpy that I don’t have cheese in my house.  All I could wonder is how any chef could achieve such a singularly flavorless sandwich with so many promising ingredients?  I want to go into the kitchen and teach that chef a few things about making flavorful food.

Over all I think I’m going to be much healthier with so little dairy in my diet but I’m not feeling happy about it yet.  I need to make more food like the mushroom saute – things that are so good without cheese naturally that I start craving those dishes all the time.

Eating a lot of hummus is helping.  Avocados are really wonderful on everything – I’m not sure I could go cheese-less without them.  I have this idea for making a tzatziki sauce without dairy – using a blend of silken tofu and vegan mayo thinned with lemon juice and flavored with garlic and fresh dill.  I think I’ll make that today.  I have another idea for a similar spread using the tofu and mayo but using sun dried tomatoes, garlic, and thyme for flavoring.  I need really amazing spreads and sauces to brighten up my meals.

That’s my cheese report for now.

6 thoughts on “Dairy Free Cooking Challenge: the first report

  1. Ann

    You are so strong. I could do away with most cheese, but not my greek style yogurt. Every day and lots of it. Should I have capitalized the g in greek?

  2. angelina Post author

    I love yogurt too (but not the Greek kind). I think this would be much harder if I was saying I wouldn’t eat ANY dairy but I can still eat it out or at other people’s houses and also I’m only saying I’m going to cook dairy free for a year. ALSO – I’m still going to bake with milk and butter – so it’s not very extreme.

    Okay – but I love cheese the way you love Greek yogurt so – yeah. Grump grump grump…

  3. simply.belinda

    Well, I don’t know about anyone else but I’d love to know how to make an amazing grilled veg sandwich.

    All I’m going to say is I admire your commitment to dairy free home cooking. You’re absolutely right that you need to find/create a set of ‘go to’ recipes that you love. I also find when I’m doing such an overhaul that really thinking about my comfort foods and working out what it is about those foods that hits the spot really helps me work out appropriate substitutes.

    Kind Regards

  4. Ann

    I would grump, too. I get it (duh), no dairy in Your cooking. You’re a great cook, very creative. I will be very interested to see what you come up with as this year progresses.

  5. NM

    Hmm. I always want to eat salt, and I can’t hold my liqueur worth a damn. I thought it was just me.
    It took me awhile to get used to things like spaghetti without parmesan, but now it’s been so many years that it’s just the way I eat, and life is good. So is the food.
    Here’s my recommendation for August cooking: Fried zucchini. Slice, dredge in whole wheat flour, eggs, bread crumbs, fry in olive oil, apply a lot of salt and pepper. Health food, as you can see. : )
    Essential August dish. Even if it does leave the kitchen an unholy mess.

  6. NM

    Also, pesto made me sad for awhile. I always made it with walnuts, and it just didn’t taste right or nearly as good, without parmesan. Then I ran across a recipe for pistou — much the same as pesto, but no nuts and no cheese — and voila! The goodness was back. Thank goodness.
    Though it might be harder for you. I was a few years in at that point.
    Oh, and for the love of crumb, don’t try subbing soy milk for milk in your baked goods. Water. Water is your friend. With lemon juice or extra fat added as needed.
    Not that you asked for all this unsolicited advice, but here it is, anyway. Hope it’s useful.

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