Friday, April 19, 2013

The Dairy List

In the last month, I've had no less than five people tell me that they are trying to drop dairy. All have been mothers, trying to get rid of an allergen in their diets. So, this is the dairy list. The list of all the substitutes I've tried and liked (and a few I really didn't like).

My intention awhile back was to review each of these things individually, and at some point I will, but for now, I think it's more important to put the basics out there, to help people.

Not all of the products below are soy-free or gluten-free, but all are vegan.

I encourage you to label-read everything. Always. Butter substitutes fool sometimes, because people assume that margarine is dairy-free, when it often contains casein or whey. Be careful.

Butter substitute in a “spreadable” form:

I’ve found that almond is pretty good and so is soy milk. Rice milk tastes a lot like rice, so it’s not my favorite. I’ve not tried hemp milk or sunflower “milk,” but those are options, too. In the meantime, here are some good brands…
It's good to know that chocolate and vanilla versions of soymilk and almond milk are very yummy and can be heated for hot cocoa or used in lattes). A lot of the time, you can sub almond milk in things like mashed potatoes (which is delicious).

Ice cream
Rice ice cream tastes like it has rice in it.
Almond ice cream tastes a little nutty.
Coconut milk ice cream tastes a little like coconuts.
Soy ice cream is okay, but it depends on the brand and the flavor.
Tofu based ice cream sounds awful, but Tofutti cuties (ice cream sandwiches) are AMAZING.

Cheese is tricky. I think it’s the hardest thing to mimic. I used to be quite the cheese nerd, so I am also really picky about my fake cheese.

My favorite cheese is WayFare cheese spread, which I love on crackers, in tacos, or on burgers. It’s close in texture and taste to “cheese in a can” and is pretty delicious. I've also tried their pudding, which is amazing, and their sour cream, which was not amazing..

Most vegans rave about Daiya, which I think is okay. It’s not amazing, and I find it overwhelming to top a pizza with it. You're going to see it in the "fake dairy" section. It's just "meh," not amazing.

And fake rice milk cheese, tastes like rice, not cheese. A lot of fake cheese substitutes also have whey or casein, so watch out for that.

Soy yogurt is closest in taste to regular yogurt.
Almond milk yogurt tastes a little nutty.
Coconut milk yogurt tastes a little like coconuts.
All are good, just different. My favorites are almond milk and coconut milk.

Soy yogurt:


A lot of chocolate is already vegan. Yay! Except, I noticed in lower-quality chocolate (hershey, M&M's, ghirardelli) there is milk-fat used. Dark
chocolate is almost always vegan but, as you may have guessed, milk chocolate is not. Theo chocolate (not a purely vegan company) is really good about writing “vegan suitable” on the back of their bars that are vegan, but a lot of the time you can just read the label to see if there are milk products used. Some things are made on equipment that also processes milk-products. It’s obviously up to you, how picky you want to be with what you ingest, but in cases like this, it should state it on the product, near the ingredient list.


I have also recently become addicted to Enjoy Life's Ricemilk Chocolate bar. OMNOMNOM.

Are there any things you feel like you'd like me to add to the list, or are there things you've tried that I should try, too? Please let me know!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Vegan Taco Filling (soy-free, gluten-free)

And more tacos! You can never have too many tacos.

My daughter is allergic to something and we don't know what it is, so I have cut soy and gluten out of my diet completely, because they are common allergens. This taco filling was born from necessity. We make these once a week and I just made these tonight!

I buy my ingredients at Whole Foods, my favorite grocery store.

Ingredients (preferably organic):
2  15oz cans of black beans, rinsed
1 16oz bag of frozen corn
1  large onion, diced (we use yellow onion)
1  medium garlic bulb, sliced or chopped
3/4  cup of carrots, chopped
1/4  cup of brown sugar
3  tablespoons of olive oil (we use extra virgin olive oil)
1 1/2  tablespoons of cumin
1  teaspoon of smoked sea salt (use plain sea salt as a substitute)
1/2  teaspoon of ground black pepper
1/2  teaspoon of red pepper flakes

Place a large pan on the stove (11" or larger), on medium to medium-high heat. Add the olive oil to the pan. Add the onion and garlic. If the onions and garlic are browning quickly, reduce heat to medium. Stir every minute or so, until the onion begins to become translucent. Add the carrots, and keep stirring every minute or so. Continue to cook for 5+ minutes, until the carrots are tender. Add the black beans and corn. Continue to stir this, every few minutes, for 7+ minutes until the corn is hot.

You have made the filling! Now let's add some flavor!

Flavor Flav

Add the brown sugar, cumin, smoked sea salt, ground black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Stir until the spices are distributed evenly.

If you don't have a lot of spices and don't want to invest in them, buy a packet of taco seasoning, and use that instead of the spice blend above.

As I said in yesterday's post: "If you are not generally someone who cooks a lot, I recommend tasting the taco meat after you add each spice. Start with a light hand--you can always add more spices later, but you can't remove them. If you wish a flavor was stronger, add more of that spice. If you wish a different spice was in the dish, add that too. Rosemary and basil are my favorite spices to add in on a whim. Listen to yourself and trust your taste." This is always good to remember.

Your dish will be done when it tastes right to you.

Turn off the burner and put it in a tortilla with your favorite taco toppings.

Do you have a favorite gluten-free, soy-free taco filling? I love trying new things! Please share it!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Vegan Taco Meat (soy-free)

I feel, that when you're first starting to go vegan, vegetarian, or even "meat-reducing," the key to making something good, is to modify a dish that you already love.

In our house, one of our favorite modified dishes is tacos. Seriously, who doesn't love tacos?

As you might imagine, meat substitutes are interesting. Some taste amazing, but the texture is mushy or rubbery. Some taste awful, but the texture is good. A lot of the time, you have to try a lot of meat substitutes to find something that you really love. There are so many indie brands on the market. It's important to try, try, try, because this is an evolving industry and the "new" product on the shelf might become your favorite product. Improvements are constantly being made!

My favorite beef substitutes, are by Field Roast Grain Meat. The company is locally based in Seattle, WA, and the flavor and texture of their products is unbeatable. I buy them through Whole Foods, my favorite grocery store.

As my husband said, "It stopped trying to be meat, and instead was just good."


Field Roast makes a lot of different products (which I will have to delve into and review later), but my favorite mixture of meat substitute for tacos is one smoked tomato quarter loaf and any one package of of the apple sage sausage links.

So, you take these two delicious ingredients,

...and you dice them up as thin as you like. The loaf will hold it shape no matter how you slice it; it's hard to get it "ground." I cut it like you would dice an onion, so I have a bunch of small pieces. The sausage, you can cut into thin slices or you can crumble. I don't bother to crumble it, I just slice it in little 1/4" slices.

Essentially you have just "made" your ground-beef substitute. Give yourself a high-five because you, my friend, are awesome!

Put it in a pan, on the stove, on medium to medium-high heat.

I recommend adding a little water to your meat before you add the spices. It's going to allow the meat to simmer in a bath of spices and keep it from getting dry.

I would add about 1/2 cup - 3/4 cup of water. It doesn't matter if the meat is already warm or not because warming up the meat will not change the texture.

As the meat and water begin heating, add your spices.

I like to add approximately:
1-2 tablespoon of cumin
1-2 teaspoons of salt (preferably smoked salt, sea salt, or garlic salt)
1 teaspoon of ground, black pepper
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/2 a teaspoon of oregano
1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes

If you want it sweeter (I like my tacos sweet and savory!), add about 1/4 cup of brown sugar and/or a 1/2-1 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce.

If you don't have a lot of spices, buy a packet of taco seasoning, and use that instead of the spice blend above.

Your taco meat can burn, just like beef can. Keep it simmering, but not boiling. Stir it frequently, and taste it as you add the spices. If you are not generally someone who cooks a lot, I recommend tasting the taco meat after you add each spice. Start with a light hand--you can always add more spices later, but you can't remove them.

With each spice you add another layer of flavor. If you wish a flavor was stronger, add more of that spice. If you wish a different spice was in the dish, add that too. Rosemary and basil are my favorite spices to add in on a whim. Listen to yourself and trust your taste.

You will know when your dish is done because you will have a sauce about the consistency of salad dressing or barbecue sauce all over the meat. Turn off the burner and put it in a shell with some lettuce, salsa, and cheese (and of course, whatever else you please)! Enjoy!

Do you have a favorite, vegan, ground-beef substitute? What do you love about it? Please share it in the comments below!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Earth Balance

Here is one of my favorite companies: Earth Balance. I've tried three products, and it's now the only butter-substitute I buy.

I used the olive oil based spread, until recently. I won't lie, I originally bought this because thought of olive oil based butter-substitute intrigued me.
My daughter's pediatrician thinks she might have an allergy to soy, so I cut that out of my diet (it has soy oil). Now we use the "soy free buttery spread," which tastes awesome.
I've done a bit of baking with the "vegan buttery sticks," but since they are not soy-free, I cannot use them anymore. However, I would recommend them to anyone that doesn't have a soy allergy. I now use the soy free buttery spread to bake and cook. I just measure it out using an tablespoon.
  • All three products spread like butter, especially if you leave them out of the fridge at room-temperature for a few minutes
  • They taste good. It's a butter substitute that you want to eat.
  • They are vegan.
  • Non-GMO (YAY!)
  • Gluten-Free
  • Not organic
Have you tried Earth Balance? What's your favorite butter-substitute?

Hello everyone!

Hello everyone!

This blog is for you, because it's hard to cut meat out of a diet, and it's even harder to cut animal products out.

I'm often asked "what do you eat?" I'm at a point where I can answer that question, and help people who want to move to a reduced-meat, vegetarian, or vegan lifestyle.

I became a vegetarian in 2004 and recently became a vegan around October 2012 (with the exception of lanolin-based vitamin D and honey). My hubby is a recent omnivore-to-vegan convert, as well. He decided to go vegan mid-2012 after researching all of the awful things that come from eating meat and dairy.

I must say, cheese is the hardest thing to quit, but it's worth it.

A big catalyst in our decision, was the impending birth of our daughter, who is now three months old. Because our daughter has a food allergy, I am currently a soy-free, gluten-free vegan.

For your following pleasure, there will be impartial product reviews and recipes. Happy following! <3