Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Dairy-Free Cheese That Is Really Dairy-Free

When I first went looking for a cheese substitute after learning my daughter was allergic to dairy, I made the mistake of purchasing soy cheese. It was a logical choice. We were already using soymilk instead of cow's milk so soy cheese instead of cow's milk cheese seemed like a no-brainer. Then I took a closer look at the ingredients label. There in plain writing was the word "casein". As anyone familiar with dairy allergies knows, casein is one of those offending milk proteins that many with dairy allergies are sensitive to. Horrified (since I had already given a slice to my daughter, fortunately with no obvious adverse consequences) and disappointed, I tossed the package into the garbage. Yet another product off-limits to us, but it was a good lesson learned.

As it turns out, most packaged products with soy cheese contain casein. This is unfortunately true of the soy cheese pizzas out there I was also hoping to try out with my daughter (for a good no-cheese pizza option, see this post). I suspect it's the casein in these soy cheese products that allow them to behave much like regular cheese, in particular its ability to melt nicely.

Anyway, I figured going forward any type of cheese would just have to be avoided altogether, that is, until I found yet more varieties of cheese at Whole Foods. We've since tried a couple of completely dairy-free cheeses, this time vegan ones and therefore devoid of any cow's milk product. The one that my daughter likes best is the Vegan American Flavor Soy Slices from Galaxy Nutritional Foods. I like the fact that these are sold as slices so my daughter doesn't feel any different from her peers who may be eating their brand of yellow sliced cheese (although you need to be careful not to get them mixed up). Note that these are also soy-based, but are clearly marked vegan. From the perspective of one who has always eaten cow's milk cheese, this cheese doesn't taste as great and it doesn't melt well. However, since my daughter has no basis for comparison and is quite happy eating her cheese slices, this ultimately makes me a fan of them too.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Hearty Bean & Barley Soup

Over the last several years I've gotten into a routine of making soup at least once a week. This has been driven more by practical reasons than a sudden love for soup. With young children just learning to eat solids, soup is an easy meal solution. You can blend individual portions of the finished soup to whatever consistency your child can eat while the adults in the family can continue to eat the soup as is. Everybody's fed, everybody's happy.

However, practical benefits aside, I have to say that this weekly soup routine has caused me to develop a much greater appreciation for soup than I previously possessed. Soup is warm, comforting, and surprisingly satisfying, often a meal on its own. The following soup is no exception. It's a dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free soup comprised of a hearty combination of beans, barley, diced tomatoes, spinach and some other aromatic vegetables. It has good flavor and is quite nutritious as well.

RECIPE for Hearty Bean and Barley Soup by Cooking Light

Recipe Notes:

  • Omit parmesan cheese to make this dairy free

  • To save time, I've skipped the initial step of boiling and straining the first several ingredients. Instead, I will add minced garlic while sauteeing the other aromatic veggies (carrot, onion, celery), add rosemary directly into the soup, and simply omit the crushed red pepper.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Healthy Double Chocolate Muffins

I've never been too keen on using applesauce as an ingredient substitute in my dairy-free and egg-free baked goods since I think the resulting product pales so much in comparison to conventional baked goods. However, with an open mind, I decided to try out this recipe which a friend ripped out of a magazine for me. It's a recipe for dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free chocolate muffins with chocolate chips that not only uses applesauce, but also other ingredients and baking strategies that result in a healthy, lowfat, low-calorie muffin.

Here's my take on the end-product. First, let's just say that if you compare this to one of those store-bought dessert-like chocolate muffins or even to a cupcake, you will probably be disappointed. However, under the categorization of a healthy baked treat, this is pretty good. It uses unrefined oat flour which is heart-healthy and full of fiber, includes very little fat, and each muffin is only about 150 calories. I would say these are a great option if you're looking to make a more nutritious treat for your family (my kids actually really liked it) or perhaps for a health-conscious friend who might appreciate it.

RECIPE for Mariska's Joyful Heart Fudge Chip Muffins from Health Magazine

Recipe Notes:
  • Be sure to replace the almond extract called for in the recipe with more vanilla extract.

  • I found the baking time to be a little bit longer than specified, but it could just be my oven.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Puffed Pastry Twists

Here's a dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free pastry/cookie that I just discovered. It's French Twists by Barry's Bakery. They are really good. As the packaging indicates, they are basically layers of puffed pastry in a twisted shape with sweet cinnamony flavor throughout. These would work well as a light dessert, go great with coffee, or in my case, just be a yummy snacking cookie to be eaten at any time of day. I've tried the original and the maple french toast flavors and they are both very good. I primarily buy them for my food-allergic daughter so she can enjoy some sweet snacks every now and then, but I have to admit that I think I'm the one eating most of them everytime I get a bag. They are also only 60 calories apiece, but be forewarned that you will want to eat more than one in one sitting.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Quick & Tasty Chicken Tagine

If you're in the mood for something just a teensy bit more exotic, try this tasty dairy-free, nut-free, egg-free chicken tagine recipe from Rachel Ray. A tagine, as I recently learned, is traditionally a slow-cooked dish originating from North Africa. I believe this particular dish has Moroccan flavors and it also happens to be one of Rachel Ray's "30-minute-meals", so no slow-cooking going on here (which is fine by me). By using chicken breast, this dish can be cooked in a short amount of time and it holds onto all the aromatic spices quite well.

This is a very flavorful dish that works well with the couscous that is also part of the recipe. It's aromatic with some subtle sweetness coming from the dried fruit ingredients. If you have the spices on hand (cumin, coriander, sweet paprika, tumeric, cinnamon) I'd definitely give this recipe a try. And even if you don't, consider making this at a later point in time. It's fast and it adds variety to the regular meal rotation.

RECIPE for Quick Tagine-Style Chicken by Rachel Ray

Recipe Notes:
  • Don't get too caught up in having all the ingredients called for. I didn't have dried prunes or raisins on hand, and ended up using dried cranberries. I also didn't use any of the condiments. Many recipe reviewers also used different types of dried fruit or didn't use any at all and still enjoyed the dish.

  • Taking a cue from several reviews, I added just a touch more spices to ensure optimal flavor.

  • Vegetarian/Vegan Version: As noted in the recipe, eggplant or tofu may be used in place of the chicken. Vegetable broth can be substituted for the chicken broth.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

Yesterday, with a couple of overripe bananas sitting on my counter getting browner by the second, I decided that it was a good time to test out a dairy-free, nut-free, egg-free chocolate chip banana muffin recipe I had dug up on one of my online recipe hunts.

I'm happy to say that they turned out fairly well. Worth the relatively short time investment. I liked the fact that they browned well, making them visually appealing. I'd describe the texture as being not very crumbly and not too dense, but not light and fluffy either. I only had two ripe bananas (large ones) versus the three called for in the recipe so my muffins probably turned out slightly drier than the recipe intended, however, I actually like my banana muffins this way. If you like yours moist, definitely use all three bananas.

Overall, I'd say this recipe turns out a good muffin which I would make again. If you happen to have some ripening bananas on your hands that you don't know what to do with, consider making a batch of these to satisfy your breakfast, brunch or general snacking needs.

RECIPE from Amanda's Own Confections

Note: Once you're at the site, you'll need to scroll down a bit to find the recipe. There are also other dairy-free, nut-free, egg-free recipes you might want to try as well.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Dairy-Free Egg-Free Mayonnaise

[Post updated 3/17/08]

When you're looking to make an allergy-friendly sandwich, you can either go it dry without any type of spread, use mustard or ... use a dairy-free, egg-free mayonnaise. Yes, that's right, there are dairy-free, egg-free mayonnaise products out there. I didn't realize this until well into my first year of living with food allergies. Granted, if you've had "regular" mayonnaise, this kind of mayonnaise may not totally compare in terms of creaminess, but for the most part, they do an admirable job in place of the real thing. Here are three products I've tried:

Trader Joe's Reduced Fat Mayonnaise - Good for sandwiches, but would not recommend for something like macaroni salad as it's slightly on the thinner side. Least expensive of the bunch. (Note: This is "made on equipment shared with egg". I've not had a problem with this, but it's important to note for those wanting to play it totally safe.)

Vegenaise by Follow Your Heart - I had to go try this after a recommendation from a reader. I'm glad I did. This is probably the best one I've tried so far with good flavor and creaminess. It will probably hold up well in non-sandwich applications too.

Wildwood's Zesty Garlic Aioli - This is not super zesty. A good option if you want to vary up the flavor a bit.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Turkey Meatloaf

Here's a dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, wheat-free, and soy-free turkey meatloaf recipe that was really much better than I expected. Let me first qualify this by saying that I did opt to make this with wheat ingredients (substituted panko bread crumbs for the quinoa) so I can't really comment on the recipe exactly as written. However, if you are simply looking to avoid dairy, eggs, and nuts like me, then I would definitely recommend this recipe with the use of dairy-free/egg-free bread crumbs. Since eggs are often used as a binding ingredient in meatloaf, I was happy to find that this version without eggs held up very well. I was able to easily cut bite size pieces for my 3-year-old without it crumbling at all. Overall a great meal option that was easy to make, nutritious, tasty, and popular with the kids.

RECIPE for Turkey Meatloaf by Delicious Living

Recipe Notes:
  • As mentioned above, try this with dairy-free, egg-free bread crumbs (wheated version of the recipe). I made it with panko crumbs and it worked out great. You can probably find these Japanese-style breadcrumbs in the international section of your grocery store.
  • Mix a bit more ketchup (~2 Tbsp) into the meatloaf mix to further boost the flavor

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Super Healthy 17 Bean & Barley Soup

Here's a relatively new product that is being sold at Trader Joe's. It's their 17 Bean & Barley Mix which can be made into a very hearty soup if you follow the recipe printed on the back of the package. I've never been a huge bean person before, but I've discovered that many bean-based dishes also happen to meet my dairy-free, nut-free, and egg-free food requirements. I've also learned over time to appreciate nutrient-rich foods, such as beans, and in general try to eat as healthily as possible.

When it comes to healthy, this bean mixture certainly delivers. One quarter-cup serving includes 13g of fiber, 13g of protein, and 20% of the daily recommended allowance for iron. To make the soup, you will also need vegetable broth, onions, carrots, celery, bell pepper, canned tomatoes, garlic and a variety of spices. It's pretty hearty so it definitely qualifies as one of those soups that is a meal in itself. To make this easier for kids to eat, you can take a portion of the soup and blend it roughly with an immersion blender. This has turned into a great meal solution for me since everyone down to my one-year-old enjoys eating it and I can feel good knowing that we all managed to get something healthy in us for the day.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Jamie Oliver's Best Pasta Salad

Dairy-free pasta recipes are often difficult to find. However, in the category of pasta salads, which are frequently made with vinaigrette dressings, you may be able to find several that are completely dairy-free or can be made dairy-free by simply not adding the accompanying cheese topping. Here is a completely dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free pasta salad recipe that is fairly easy to make and has a wonderful blend of flavors. While it tastes best with all ingredients, you can still produce a very respectable and tasty salad if you don't happen to have chives or olives on-hand. I've made it before without olives and thought it still tasted great. This allergy-friendly side dish would work well with any lunch, potluck, picnic or barbecue.

RECIPE for The Best Pasta Salad by Jamie Oliver

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Chili & Cornbread

Here's a simple yet satisfying meal that is very easy to make. Chili is one of those foods that we don't routinely eat, but every now and then I like to interject it into the rotation to change up our usual meal line-up.

This dependable chili recipe is one from Everyday Food. I like their recipes because they tend to have 10 or fewer ingredients and all of them are usually pantry staples or very basic items that are very easy to get. This recipe mixes it up a little by throwing in some cocoa to lend some depth to the overall flavor. I've never put cocoa in anything besides baked goods so this made the recipe sort of fun to make. Cornbread was something I didn't think we'd be able to enjoy with our chili again, but thankfully I was able to find a dairy-free, egg-free (vegan) recipe for cornbread that everybody in the family really likes.

RECIPE for Lighter Beef Chili from Everyday Food

Recipe Notes:
  • This is a very mild chili so it works well with kids. If you prefer more heat, boost up the chili powder or add some variety of hot pepper.
  • The recipe as written is very low on salt, so be sure to add salt according to your taste.
  • To balance out the tartness of the tomatoes, you may want to add 1-2 teaspoons of sugar.

RECIPE for Moist Vegan Cornbread from Recipezaar

Recipe Notes:
  • As the recipe indicates, this is best eaten the day it is made. In my experience, it will last 2 days before it dries out.
  • If you prefer your cornbread less sweet, cut back a little on the maple syrup (~3-4 Tbsp) and make up the difference in soymilk.