Saturday, June 04, 2016

Friday Favorites: Dairy alternatives

Welcome to my first Friday Favorites post.  It's actually Saturday and it's just now getting posted, but it's the end of the year and things are crazy! Recently, I have had a lot of friends ask what some of my favorite non-dairy products were and I thought that it would make a great blog post.  So, here it goes. 
I know that I bake a lot with milk and whipping cream (i mean, it's kind of hard to make scones without it), but what I don't talk a whole lot about is the fact that I have a pretty yucky milk allergy.   I will be honest with you, having a dairy allergy pretty much stinks, but it's a whole lot easier than when I was a kid.  When I was three years old, I had tons of scratch testing done (still have a thing against long, sharp, pointy things and the Dr.'s office) and we found out that among a lot of things, I was allergic to milk.  Back then, there really were not a lot of options out there.  Switch to goat milk (which I thought was nasty as a kid) or just cut out dairy.  But, eventually I outgrew it and consumed ice cream (because that's really the best thing that comes from dairy. . . right?)  Unfortunately, as I got older, I started having stomach issues and after each pregnancy, they got really bad.  The culprit. . . milk.  So, by the time Weston was born my diet was pretty much dairy free.

When Weston was born, we didn't notice that he had a sensitivity to dairy like most people see in infants because I wasn't consuming dairy.  Once, we switched to formula we noticed a lot of really bad blow outs and super bad eczema.  It wasn't until he was 1 and we switched him to soy milk (and no change), and finally, to rice milk where we noticed a complete change.  Weston also has a soy allergy that he has not outgrown and this is probably the most difficult thing because manufacturers put it in everything! 

So, we are a dairy free/soy free (kind of. . . the other half of the family eats it!) house.  And, I really feel we are blessed to live in a time where there are alternatives, that are actually quite tasty and enjoyable.  We do have allergies to both the protein and the sugar that is found in dairy products, so this is an actual allergy and not a lactose intolerance. . . which some people get confused about.  But, if you struggle with dairy that this post will be of some help for you.

Here are some of our favorite non dairy alternatives.

Ice Cream - we love brands like SoDelicious, but Steves Ice Cream is probably the BEST coconut milk ice cream out there.  They make their ice cream in small batches and add fun flavor combinations that make me not feel left out at the local ice cream shops when everyone else is getting fun flavors.   Once Weston tried Steves, he refused to eat the So Delicious pint that was in the fridge. . . even my 5 year old could tell the difference! 

Earth Balance Butter - I won't lie.  Sometimes you just have to have butter.  We found this one (Earth Balance) at Whole Foods and love the fact that it doesn't have soy either (they have other kinds that do).  It tastes pretty close to actual butter, which is great because Weston loves to put butter on his bread.  Earth Balance also makes sticks that I have heard bake really well.  We haven't tried them because we can't find the soy-free sticks.  Bummer.

Green Valley Organics - This is my favorite.  It's lactose free, so if you have an allergy like mine, it will still have the dairy protein in it, which is what causes eczema.   But, when I want a dollup of sour cream on a taco, I get this one because it tastes just like sour cream (because it is actually dairy. . . without the lactose).  I can deal with a little bit of eczema, but the intestinal issues. . . not so much.  They also make a fantastic cream cheese that I can't wait to try making some cheese cake with it!

Cool Whip - I mentioned SoDelicous earlier and while they do make terrific ice cream, they make a fantastic cool whip.  Now, it is so easy to make coconut whipped cream.  But, there are times that you just don't have a can of coconut cream sitting in the fridge ready to be whipped up for 8+ minutes.  This can be frozen, defrosted, and thrown back into the freezer.  I don't recommend the low fat one. . . it doesn't have a good consistency of whipped cream.  The full fat one tastes just like cool whip, with just a slight coconut taste (after all it is coconut). 
Daiya - This brand is probably my favorite non-dairy/non-soy product.  It tastes pretty close to the real thing and melts really well.  Companies like Pi-ology and Blaze pizza use it on their pizzas (which makes us SUPER happy!).  I've been able to make enchiladas and a few other cheesy dishes because of it.  Daiya has also just recently come out with frozen pizzas and cheesecakes.  We haven't tried them, but they do exist. 

Go Veggie - This brand is okay.  We buy the cheese slices because Weston will eat them.  If you have a soy allergy, be cautious because normal grocery stores DO NOT sell the soy-free version of this cheese.  I personally think they taste like chalk, but Weston eats it by itself and in grilled cheese sandwiches.  

Jarlsberg - In high school, I got to take a trip to Norway and meet distant relatives and ate the most amazing cheeses.  Never once do I remember my stomach bothering me while there and I ate a ton of cheese!  I noticed a few months ago that the Jarlsberg swiss cheese slices don't contain lactose and it's amazing!  Real cheese.  No tummy issues!  This is a regular on our whole foods shopping list.  You can find large packs at Costco, but we don't go through it fast enough to make it worth it.

Guittard - So, this may be our favorite find so far.  High Quality Chocolate with no soy.  Chocolate is a tricky one and high quality (expensive) chocolate is the only way to go.  I am not saying that because I am a snob, but because brands like Hershey's dark chocolate really have milk in it. They use a lower percentage of dark chocolate and combine it with milk chocolate and well. . . it's not a true dark chocolate.  Plus, in our case Weston can't have soy either, which makes it a double whammy!  Guittard is a great, high quality chocolate chip that can be found at Whole Foods for about $5 a bag (don't buy it there!), or Target, our my local discount grocery store (Food Max) for less than $3.  I stock up and freeze it because we make LOTS of chocolate chip cookies around here!

Theo bars are our favorite chocolate snack.  The dark chocolate bars are dairy free and soy free.  They run between 3 and 4 dollars, but they are so good!  We keep them in the freezer and only have one little square when we need a treat!  Weston has quite the pallet for chocolate.  He won't eat raspberries, but he will eat them in chocolate!  

Also, when baking I often will just use the real cream, sour cream, and milk because when baked at a high enough temperature, the milk changes it's chemical form (I am SOOO not a chemist!) so it doesn't cause stomach issues.  This doesn't work with cheese, but it does work with sour cream and milk.    

I hope this post helps you!  If you have any other questions about going non dairy, feel free to ask and I will write some more on the topic. 

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