Tag Archives: dairy free cooking

Georgia O’Keefe Should Have Painted Figs

My too-dry-dried figs sat on my desk for quite a few days before going into storage.  So I had a lot of time to look at them.  And it came to me one day that they looked like small mean vaginas with teeth.  I put them away the next morning.

Can I offer you a fig?

I didn’t photograph my Thanksgiving dinner.  I cooked for three people.  I missed having my sister with us.  Needless to say – we kept our meal simple and we watched Miss Marple while we ate.  Here’s what we had:

Casserole: poblano peppers stuffed with tofu, corn, and zucchini on a bed of green rice (rice with pureed tomatillos, cilantro, and lime juice) and topped with a cashew cream sauce.

Mashed sweet potatoes: plain for my mom but for ours I added salt, pepper, and butter.

Salad: romaine lettuce, apples, walnuts, and cranberries with a vinaigrette.

The salad and yams were predictably good.

The casserole was an experiment – something I thought up to use the last of the summer peppers and tomatillos and summer squash.  It turned out really good – it was delicious!  Except that I have come to realize once again that I really don’t like peppers and can’t eat them.  Except for pickled jalapenos, crushed red pepper, and cayenne – peppers do NOT agree with me.  They made me burp for hours.  So if I did this casserole again I would not use the peppers.  I would just do a bottom layer of the green rice, then do a layer of the tofu and vegetables, topped with the cashew cream.  I’d eat that again in a second.  I don’t love rice, as you may have observed from the lack of it in my recipes.  I don’t hate it but I never crave it and generally speaking – I’d be fine never eating it again.  Even so – the rice layer of the casserole was really good!  I think what I liked about it was the tanginess of the tomatillos and because I precooked the rice and then mixed it with the puree – it was a little bit like risotto – not fluffy and dry – but not soupy either.  It was perfect.

About cashew cream: it’s really good stuff!  I have discovered that you need a blender that doesn’t suck to get it really smooth and creamy.  If you have a blender that has issues with blending things you may have to do small batches and add a little extra water to it.  I could smell my blender motor burning.  Nice.  But it managed to get the job done with a lot of coaching.  Cashew cream is rich without being heavy and it browns nicely like cheese does.  I definitely want to play with this again.  It’s certainly not a low fat food so using it won’t be less fattening than using cream or cheese – but it is a really nice vegan option and it is full of good protein and nutrition.  Biggest problem is that cashews cost a fortune.  So I won’t be using this a lot – but it’s worth experimenting with some more.

Over all we had a really nice Thanksgiving.  If you want to hear all about my thankfulness you can read my post Gratitude for All of You over at Better Than Bullets.

So how was your Thanksgiving?  I hope you all had a good time with people you love!

Cooking With Chelsea: The Sopes Edition

This is not a sope.  This is a nopale salad that Chelsea whipped up off the top of her head.  It is AMAZING.  Chelsea doesn’t write recipes.  I am the note taker and the annoying person interrupting genius  “Wait – what did you just do?  Hold on!  How much of that did you put in there?”  You may thank me for my perseverance and note taking skill after I post the recipe for this salad and for the salsa we made.

I have to test out the two recipes before posting them to be sure of proportions.  I just wanted to give you a peek at our sope adventure.  I’ve never made them before.  We used a recipe from the Culinary Institute of America’s Vegetarian Cookbook.  They’re very good fresh but the only fat in them is the thin film of oil used on the pan to cook them with.  I love the idea of a little masa harina plate to pile delicious food onto.

I didn’t love the sopes as much as I thought I would.  It’s something I want to work on more.  Chelsea made sopes once using leftover tamale dough and said it was wonderful.  I think having fat in the masa harina may make a difference.

The tomatillo and avocado salsa is so good it’s hard to keep myself from eating it with a spoon.  What I love about it is that it has such a bright and rich flavor to it but is really low in calories.  The first time Chelsea gave me some to try I used it as a dressing on salad and I loved it.

I’m wondering how well this salsa might freeze.  Tomatillos are still in season but will be over soon so I’ll get this recipe posted soon so you can try it out.

While eating this food I did not wish I had cheese or sour cream with it.  While that would be delicious too – the nopale salad was so tangy and refreshing I didn’t wish it was sprinkled with feta.  We made a black bean and fresh corn salad to fill the sopes with and dressed it with the tomatillo salsa and the richness of the salsa was perfect and didn’t make me wish there wasn’t something more to it.   So this was a totally successful day in the learning to cook excellent food without using dairy.

What cooking adventures have you been having lately?

The Dairy Free Cooking Challenge: Changes

I have been struggling with this challenge a lot.  I’m going to change it.  I am re-naming it “The Dairy Free Dinner Challenge” as my friend Angela was calling it from the beginning.  Why?  What’s up?  What kind of loser am I?  I was afraid you might ask that.

I have to lose 100 lbs.  I can’t do it not cooking with dairy.  I know that sounds all wrong.  I should find it easier to do because no dairy means a lower fat diet.  Right?  RIGHT?  Yeah, well, going from eating a crap-ton WAY TOO MUCH dairy to not cooking with any dairy is a huge shift and the biggest problem is that I am not satisfied with most of the food I’m cooking.  I have only had pasta once or twice in the past couple of months because I don’t like pasta without Parmesan cheese on it.  I tried a vegan version of Parm cheese and didn’t like it.  (It tasted good to me by itself but I didn’t like it on the pasta).  The only thing that makes my food remotely good is a lot of avocado.  But I can’t have avocado with every meal.

Basically – I don’t want to cook.  I cook and I don’t feel excited about the food I’m eating.  So then I binge on take out food with cheese.  I’m eating cheese enchiladas two times a week to satisfy my desire for tasty and satisfying food.  In case you don’t know it – cheese enchiladas with beans and rice and salsa and guacamole and tortilla chips is pretty much my favorite meal on earth and I could eat it every day and that meal is over 1,000 calories.

I need to not eat out so often for financial and health reasons.  Going out to eat is the only food I look forward to eating anymore.  Normally I go out to eat mostly for the fun of hanging out with my family in a festive environment but my home cooking is better than I can get at most restaurants.  At least – when I’m cooking the food I know how to cook which includes dairy.  I started this challenge because I want to eat a lot less dairy than I am used to eating for health, for sustainability, and ethical reasons.  That goal has not changed.  This challenge was about building a repertoire of dairy free meals that I can be excited about – to learn to cook excellent dairy free meals.

But losing weight is way more important to me right now than anything else.  I’m obese and I know what I need to do to lose it and I keep tripping up and sabotaging my efforts because I don’t feel satisfied.  I want yogurt and fruit for breakfast and I don’t want substitute yogurts made from soy or coconuts or almonds.  Instead I get super hungry because nothing sounds good for breakfast and I make an enormous portion of tofu and toast with tomato and avocado and then I slather that with a cup of ketchup to satisfy that – whatever the hell it is that dairy satisfies – and it’s too much food.  Then I eat a delicious dairy free salad for lunch.  But then I’m hungry again and I don’t know what the fuck to eat.  No pasta… I’m not a rice girl… I could make couscous again I guess… but then I just give in and go get a big combo plate of enchiladas.  Spending money I need to not spend and then, since I’ve already ruined my calorie count for the day I may as well forget about it and do whatever I want and drink as much beer as I feel like.  This is not good.  These are not healthy behaviors.

So I’ve decided to keep learning to make dairy free dinners and build my repertoire and my ultimate goal is unchanged.  I do feel that a diet with a lot less dairy is the healthiest thing to do for myself.  The difference is that I need to give myself a lot longer to reach that goal.  I thought that simply diving in and not cooking with any dairy at all would be the best way to learn to cook without it.  I was wrong.  This is not the best approach for me.  I know what I can cook and eat and be satisfied with while still losing weight.  I did it before.  I lost 40 lbs while still eating cheese and everything I like to eat – I leaned things up a little and developed the self discipline to not have seconds and not have huge portions but I still loved the food I was eating and felt satisfied.

So I’m going to bring dairy back into the house but I’m going to keep developing dairy free meals so that I can build a repertoire of vegan food that satisfies.  One of my best resources is my friend Chelsea who is an excellent cook and who is lactose intolerant so though she eats meat – when we cook together it’s vegan.  She’s got so many meal ideas that sound amazing that don’t involve dairy – so I look forward to learning from her.

And now – it’s almost noon and I haven’t eaten anything yet and I don’t know what to eat because I’ve got no avocado, no bread, and nothing sounds good.  I guess I’ll fry up some potatoes.  That will have to do for lunch.

Dairy Free Dinner Challenge: samosas, dill, and hummus

Not cooking with dairy if you’ve been cooking with lots of dairy your whole life is exactly as challenging as I thought it would be.  I’ve had a couple of meals out again this week that had dairy and there was some grated Parmesan left that I put on some ratatouille because I was so desperately craving cheese.  Since my goal isn’t to be 100% dairy free – this is okay.  The goal I set is one I’ve kept to – I haven’t bought any cheese or yogurt (or milk or butter – though I may still buy some for baking as stated in my challenge) since the end of July.

What to cook without any dairy?  I’m finding you simply have to shift your focus.  I don’t want to cook things that normally would have cheese in them because it makes me miss the cheese.  I don’t want to do mock-cheese dishes.  I don’t want to be cooking dairy free but trying to replicate dairy with soy or coconut.  For the most part I want to learn to cook meals that are simply and normally dairy free.

I love Indian food.  It’s true that my all-time favorite Indian dish is palak paneer.  Paneer, as you know, is CHEESE.  I’m so predictable.  One of the other things I love best is samosas.  These are usually fried and I don’t do much (any) frying in my kitchen so I decided to experiment with doing a baked samosa.  For the filling I used a recipe from a book called “India’s Vegetarian Cooking” by Monisha Bharadwaj.  I didn’t have frozen peas (or fresh) so I used broccoli cut small.  The filling turned out really well.

For the wrapping I used a yeasted dough recipe from Deborah Madison’s cookbook “Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone” (my most used cookbook).   I loved the dough – it held up really well when used like a calzone – it didn’t get soggy.  Admittedly, the filling wasn’t very moist.  The dough has egg in it which helps strengthen it – I’d love a similar dough that doesn’t  have eggs in it but has the same strength.  Anyway – Bharadwaj suggests eating samosas with either chutney or ketchup.  We ran out of our chutney so I ate mine with ketchup and loved them.  To serve with them I made a cucumber salad with dill and vinaigrette.  Just cucumbers.  This was nice and cooling next to the spicy samosas.

Hummus.  I think hummus has become our go-to snack and meal food.  I can’t keep up with the demand for it.  It’s fast, nutritious, and satisfying.  I made pita last week too.  I couldn’t find my baking stone which is how I usually make them but my friend Emma reminded me that I could cook them in a cast iron skillet so I tried that.  I’ve never done them stove top before.  I really loved the results.  Since I never make pita to stuff it – it didn’t matter that they didn’t puff in the middle for me.  I rolled the pita thinner than usual (I was worried about them cooking all the way through) and they were fantastic!

One of my favorite lunches (seen in the pic above) was a pita spread with hummus and then topped with sliced avocado and some sun dried tomatoes in oil.  While I was eating it I didn’t think about cheese for a second.  It was so satisfying and the tomatoes and avocado made it feel indulgent.

Another dish I made that was amazing was a cous cous dish using the leftover steamed potatoes and broccoli from the samosa project and caramelizing some onion and mushrooms to add to it.  Then I made a lemon, olive oil, mustard, and dill sauce to dress it with.  It was amazing!  I will be making it again and posting the recipe for it soon.  I love dill and think it’s underused in American kitchens.

Right now I’m making my own red curry paste and I’ll tell you all about that and the Asian market adventure I went on with my friend Chelsea to find some of the ingredients in the next post.  In the mean-time – tell me what dairy free meals you’ve made recently that you loved?

Defining My Dairy-Free Cooking Challenge

On August 1st, 2012, I plan to stop cooking with dairy for a year.

All meals I make at home for me and Philip (and my mom) will be dairy free for one year.  Philip and I aren’t going dairy free, just our meals at home.  He’s still going to put half and half in his coffee.  We’ll still eat dairy at freinds’ houses and out at restaurants.  We’re still going to eat eggs (which are not dairy).  I’m still baking with dairy.  I don’t intend to become vegan and I don’t intend to ever give dairy up completely.  What I want (and won’t do unless I make a real commitment to myself) is to reduce my dairy consumption by 75%.

I want to learn to cook and enjoy eating food that does not have cheese, butter, or milk in it.  It’s that simple.

I eat “too much” cheese.  I am very fond of saying that there is no such thing as too much cheese but that’s a lie.  I know that for my best health I need to eat a lot less cheese.  Cheese needs to become an occasional treat.  Something I eat with reverence rather than a favorite food I eat at nearly every meal.

I refuse to disclose how much cheese I currently eat a week.

It’s not just about my figure and my arteries either.  In thinking about this whole cooking challenge I talked with a vegan friend and did some online reading about the carbon footprint of dairy products.  Of meat.  Of poultry.  I thought that by eating local dairy I was doing really well as far as sustainable eating was concerned.  I was incorrect.  I was concerned that not eating dairy would result in a less sustainable diet because I know that for me I would need to increase the tropical fruits and nuts in my diet to be satisfied.  (To replace the deliciousness of cheese and yogurt and butter.  Not because it is necessary for nutrition.  It’s not.)

I have often said that a life without cheese is not worth living.

I’ve said the exact same thing about beer.

But I wouldn’t miss cheese half so much if I could make a lot of coconut milk curries.  If I could eat even more avocados than I do.  If I could buy bananas and fresh pineapples.  If I could make sauces using cashews.  Avocados are my only constant tropical splurge.  I only allow myself to buy coconut milk once in a while.  Pineapples and bananas and cashews – never.  I haven’t bought a cashew in many years.  And I LOVE them!  Oh!  And dates.  I haven’t bought dates in years.  I love those too!

I read a lot of vegan food blogs and I’ve got to tell you that the vegan sites that don’t use tropicals do not entice me.  The most enticing vegan recipes feature avocados or coconut milk or cashew sauces.  I could give up cheese for a while for those things.  But then the food I eat will all have traveled more than I ever will and that’s kind of galling.

It turns out that all dairy (local or not) has a substantially higher carbon footprint than any imported produce does.  Did you know that?  It’s a question of how much energy it takes to raise the animals (to feed them, house them, pasture them – if they’re lucky enough to get any pasture time) and then how much more energy it takes to process them and store them.  Animals that are as big or bigger than human beings eat a shit-ton of grain.  That grain has to be grown for them.  There are often lots of pesticides involved.  It’s difficult to measure and compare the carbon footprints of different foods so there are definitely varying reported numbers but one thing is consistent among all the estimates: meat and dairy have a considerably higher carbon footprint than any imported or domestic produce.  Period.

So what I’m beginning to discover is that eating sustainably isn’t just a question of where it was grown or how much poison was used to grow it or how many miles it had to travel but also how much energy it takes to feed your food and then process it in factories.  It’s complicated.

Here’s my new model of sustainable eating practices prioritized:

  • Non-GMO foods – these are just as devastating for the earth’s diversity as directly poisoning ourselves and the soil is.  This is bad-ass evil shit.  If you don’t care about anything else, you should care about this.
  • Major reduction in meat and dairy consumption (including eggs) – because having to grow food for your food takes an extravagant amount of energy.  Produce crops need water, light, and compost but compost is naturally produced by the scraps of other produce.  It’s also free if people (farmers and individuals) are doing it right.  Plus there’s the whole animal treatment issue.  If you are a person who really needs to eat meat then just consider eating smaller portions of it at meals and maybe eating a few more meat free meals a week and buy your meat/eggs/dairy from local and sustainably raised sources.  It really does matter.  Every little bit matters.  You’ll make a difference just within these parameters.  If you can afford organically and sustainably and ethically raised meat then you’re probably rich but you’ve got my automatic admiration for making such awesome choices.
  • Local – this is still important but more flexible than I realized in comparison with the dairy/meat/eggs group.  Every one of us needs to support our local farmers as much as possible so that when China decides to declare war on us we are still capable of feeding ourselves.  Support local SMALL organic farms first, then local small non-organic, then support the big local organic farms, but never support the corporate non-organic ones.  There’s nothing in it for anyone.  Do this: locate all your local farmer’s markets, before you plan your weekly menus or shop anywhere else, go to your weekly farmer’s market every single week it’s open and base as many meals a week as you can on what is available there.  Buy all the produce and other locally produced foods you can from your local farmer’s markets.  That means you’re supporting your local economy FIRST and helping local farmers and food producers to thrive in a tough economy and that means they’ll consider selling to you (a familiar weekly face) before strangers in a post apocalyptic event.
  • Organic – because poison is just killing everything and everyone and everyone’s fertility.  Except for the Duggars.  Yes, organic can sometimes be cost prohibitive.  So pay attention to the dirty dozen list when you can’t buy all organic.  I’m not going to judge you.  I can’t buy all organic either.
  • Cheapness – we spend a larger proportion of our income on our grocery budget than we do on transportation.  We don’t have much money and we have a lot less because we choose to eat good quality food and support local farmers and food producers and we also don’t buy a lot of processed food (except for Max’s stuff).  It is our belief that the most important thing you can spend money on is the food you put into your body.  Food and water are the most necessary resources humans consume.  Without them we die.  Without a car?  You only think you’d die without a car.  But since we’re pretty broke most of the time we try to buy things in bulk, we grow some of our own food, we pick large quantities of produce at u-pick farms to preserve.

 I will include links to some of the reading I’ve been doing.  I will be doing some more reading.  I’m not starting this challenge to myself right away because I’m maximally stressed out trying to find Max a new doctor on his new lousy insurance so I can get him tested before the end of the school year.  I also need to research vegan cookbooks and find a couple that will be inspiring to me (must have tons of delicious inspiring photographs – why are so may vegan cookbooks skimpy on the photos or have depressing looking photos?) and I need to get my house in better order.

I’m looking forward to expanding my cooking skills and broadening my repertoire.

Maybe in my next post I’ll talk about all the jerks out there who are sick and tired of everyone getting all worried about the earth.  But only if you’re in the mood for a fight.

The Carbon Footprint of Food (Graphic)

A Vegetarian Diet Reduces the Diner’s Carbon Footprint

Food’s Carbon Footprint

The Most Harmful Foods for the Environment

And if you’re interested here’s a link to my previous post on this subject:

Vegan Versus Local and Spring Cleaning