Tag Archives: dairy free dinner challenge

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: Best Meal of the Week

I have been doing so much food preserving that I haven’t been doing a whole lot of regular cooking.  It’s typical – you are working on preserving bulk foods that are components to future meals but in themselves aren’t all that useful when you’re hungry right now.  I’ve been eating quite a few cheesy meals out from my favorite Mexican food place El Patio.  However – yesterday I made one of the best vegan meals I’ve ever tasted (pictured above).

Grilled summer squash on a bed of polenta and dressed with a kalamata olive dressing (chopped kalamata olives, julienned basil, olive oil, red wine vinegar, juice of one lemon, salt and pepper).  It was so simple and yet so satisfying!  I’m making it again tonight for vegan friends to try.

My pickles are busy fermenting.  They get cloudy after several days.  I’ve got them covered with the clamp lids and they’re sitting in my closet hopefully working their magic.  This photo was taken last week.  I think I should pull them out and check them today.

Well, I’m feeling horribly oppressed by my unopened stack of mail that has been accumulating while I’ve had all my attention directed at tomatoes and corn and peaches.  I’m scared of the potential doom within them.  So I’m going to go and open it all and file stuff and then I’m going to clean my kitchen, fold some laundry, organize a shelf or two and then I’m going to COOK.

Hope you’re all having a productive and awesome Friday!

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?