Sunday, February 10, 2008

NonDairy Cooking

I guess I should share how I cook without dairy since I brought it up. Some of it is easy and some takes creativity and experimentation.

The easy part for recipes I already have that take milk or butter is to substitute soy milk or almond milk for milk and non-dairy butter for butter (make sure it's non-hydrogenated while you're at it). For milk, I use vanilla if it's something that may taste good sweetened a bit (like french toast -- really good with vanilla soy, eggs, and a few shakes of cinnamon). If it's something savory or more bland, I just use plain soy or almond milk. You have to be careful with non-dairy butter because even though most of the ingredients look non-dairy, it may contain whey or casein further down the list, which are both components of milk. The ones I use most are Earth Balance and Canoleo. I like Earth Balance the best because it melts well for popcorn and bakes well in cookies, but it's firm when it comes out of the fridge and takes awhile to soften up. Canoleo is a little less expensive and I like to keep some on hand for mornings when we need to butter toast quickly and smoothly.

Cooking gets a little trickier when cheese comes into play. Many Mexican and Italian dishes that usually use cheese aren't that great without it. Pizza is an exception. It's still outstanding with a whole wheat crust, lots of sauce, and plenty of veggies piled up high. I just pass up things like lasagna and raviolis. But any whole grain pasta with great sauce and yummy veggies tastes wonderful. As for Mexican, I don't really enjoy going to Mexican restaurants much anymore. I don't want to order anything w/meat and that leaves many things with cheese. The other day I ordered a tostada with beans, no cheese, salsa, and tons of lettuce. I should have ordered some guacamole too. It was pretty good. What I've found with Mexican food is to increase the salsa (even add some other veggies like mushrooms) and it will make up for the lack of cheese.

The best nondairy cookbooks I've found are actually vegan cookbooks. My favorite is probably the "McDougall Quick & Easy Cookbook." Everything in it can be made in under 10 minutes. It has great recipes that have taught me how to use spices and vegetables to flavor my food. "Vegan Planet" has a ton of recipes that take a little more time. Mollie Katzen's vegetarian cookbooks are great too. She usually has soymilk options for milk and optional cheese. I probably use her "The New Moosewood Cookbook" and "Enchanted Broccoli Forest" the most. She handwrote and illustrated each of those books. It's as much fun to see her artistic style as it is to make her recipes.

I stay away from milk chocolate and look for vegan options. I usually make my own chocolate recipes from scratch -- like brownies or raw fudge. There are some options in the store, like all the Clif bar products, which contain no milk products and are made with unrefined sugar. My favorite Luna Bar is the Nuts over Chocolate (tasted like a rice krispie treat with chocolate on top), my favorite Clif bar is either the Peanut Butter or Chocolate Peanut Crunch. The Clif Builder Bars are great – Target sells the Chocolate and Peanut Butter ones for $1.39 (and they have 20 g. protein – they’re usually 1.95). The absolute best one is the Chocolate Mint, but unless they’re on sale, I don’t buy them. Safeway had them last week 4 for $5. Clif also makes bars for kids called Z Bars that usually come in a box. They sell at Health Food stores and at Target (6 for a little under $4) – The Z Bars are probably the healthiest of all the Clif bars because they’re more of a whole grain bar and not a soy-protein isolate bar like the others, which gives more protein, but is refined in the process. I recently read that the Z Bar is the only cnack that passed the California school nutritional requirements. I try not to buy them that often because they add up and aren't as good for me as whole foods, but they are good for traveling.

There are a few options for vegan chocolate chips -- Tropical Source and Sunspire. The Sunspire ones are easier to find, but are just awful. They don't taste much like chocolate and don't bake well (they sort of crumble). The Tropical Source ones are really yummy and cook just like regular chocolate chips (they are a bit smaller though). So occasionally I still make chocolate chip cookies for my kids, only I use Tropical Source chips, Earth Balance butter, evaporated cane juice (and sometimes Sucanat) for the sugar, and whole wheat flour instead of white flour. It may sound complicated, but feels pretty natural after awhile. My kids actually like my cookies better now than the ones I used to make.


  1. I know this is a really old post, but I was just looking for a non-dairy cookbook to get online and came across your post. My husband has a dairy allergy, and I mostly use vegan cookbooks myself. I wanted to mention that Bakers Chocolate Chunks are totally vegan (not even processed in the same facility, which I am always looking out for) and much cheaper than the Tropical brand. You can find them in the regular baking section of the grocery store.

  2. Thanks Jeslyn -- I've noticed another brand this past year and it's less expensive than Tropical Source too. Of course, I can't remember the name of them right now -- it's something really simple. Next time I see them at the store, I'll write it down.

    I have noticed that Tropical Source was bought out by Sunspire, but it has both names on the wrapper now, so it's still distinguishable from the grain-sweetened ones by Sunspire.