Learning to cook Gluten Free meals the entire family would enjoy was a challenge when my daughter was diagnosed with Celiac. At first, our meals were for lack of a better word-awful. No one liked them and there were many complaints of “When can we have something with gluten?” I managed to master the gluten friendly and good tasting recipes by using lots of dairy products. Dairy was our friend. It provided lots of flavor to dishes that would have been bland. Imagine my surprise when I was told the baby had not one, but two dairy allergies, one of which was life-threatening. Suddenly I could no longer use gluten, dairy, soy, or strangely enough, pears. Seriously. What was left to cook?
I’ll be honest. I still use dairy in a lot of my cooking. But, I try to plan yummy dairy-free dishes the entire family can eat. This week we’ll be sharing part one of the easy way to stock a dairy-free kitchen, along with some of our favorite products. Bonus- they are gluten free as well!
Dairy Free Cooking Basics
1. “Milk” If you plan to do any baking you’ll need milk. There’s a variety to choose from now. We’ve tried Rice Milk, Almond Milk, Cashew Milk, Coconut Milk, and recently a milk made from dried peas. The best types of milk to use for baking is Soy Milk (if you do not have a soy allergy) or Almond milk. I wouldn’t recommend coconut milk for baking as the coconut taste can overpower other flavors in the recipe. If buttermilk is needed for a recipe, you can make your own by adding 1 tablespoon vinegar to each cup of “milk.”
Sweetened, Vanilla or Chocolate milk is best for drinking. If your child has to have coconut milk for drinking, you can hide the flavor with syrup. We use dairy free chocolate syrup or Jessica’s Organic Strawberry Syrup for a treat. It’s Non-GMO, Organic, and has no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. Although it can be used for picky toddlers to get them to drink their milk, the rest of the family likes it too.
2. Cream of Coconut- This works to make your own “whipped cream,” simply whip this as you would heavy cream to use as a topping. It also works as a thickener for homemade puddings.
3. Olive Oil-This could be the most versatile product in your pantry! You can use it in marinades, as a coating for meats, to cause batter to stay on, for sauteing, and the list goes on and on. While I usually use cooking oil for baking, Extra Virgin Olive Oil can be used in a surprising amount of cookie and cake recipes. We like Gaea Virgin Olive Oil, a 100% Greek all natural oil made with cold press extraction. It’s Non-GMO, has no artificial ingredients and is ideal for cooking and frying.
4. Dairy Free Chocolate- If you still want chocolate pies, cakes, cookies and other treats, finding a good dairy free chocolate is a must. I like to use the dairy free chocolate chips in baked goods like quick bread, muffins, and cookies. They can also be used to make your own trail mix, as mix-ins for “yogurt” or melted to use for ganache or toppings. We keep a stock of Enjoy Life Baking Chocolate in our pantry. Not only are they top 8 allergen free, they are Non-GMO, gluten free and have no artificial ingredients. They bake exactly the same as regular chocolate and taste good.
5. Dairy Free Cheese and Yogurt. There’s no need to give up recipes that call for cheese and yogurt. We use dairy free cheese in coatings, casseroles, tacos, sauces, and any other items that call for regular cheese. Dairy-free yogurt can be used for snacking, making parfaits or for any recipe that calls for yogurt. Substitute a little less of the dairy-free version than the amount of regular cheese or yogurt. We use Daiya brand because they are dairy-free, gluten-free and soy-free. They’re also vegan and free of eggs, peanuts, nuts, and shellfish.
Dairy Free Convenience Products
Sometimes you are in a hurry. You need a quick meal or a quick treat for a potluck, gathering or bake sale. I try to keep a few of each of these items on hand at all times.
5. Dairy Free Baking Mixes – These provide good “basics” for creating more elaborate recipes. Keep a supply of products like pizza mix, pancake and waffle mix and brownie mix on hand and then dress them up. You can add in your favorite mix-ins to create custom brownies and pancakes or use the pizza dough to make quick breadsticks and more. It’s much easier and cheaper than having to mix up 12 kinds of flour, dairy free butter, etc to make the item from scratch. Once again, I am a big fan of Enjoy Life products because they are top 12 allergen free and just plain taste good.
6. Dairy Free Snacks- If there is one thing I’ve learned about kids, it’s that they like to fit in. No one wants to be the odd person out while everyone else is sitting around enjoying treats. I’ve also learned that many other kids don’t want to give up those tasty treats. The best way to approach this problem is to find something that is allergy friendly but tastes good. We do a lot of fruit, but sometimes chips are the way to go. One snack that has been a hit with our entire family is Popcorners. They are popped corn chips that come in 7 different flavors ranging from Carnival Kettle to Sweet Heat Chili. They’re good for snacking on the go, lunch boxes and more. They’re also Non-GMO, Gluten Free, Peanut and Tree Nut Free, Preservative Free and Vegan. Four of the flavors are dairy free; Salt of the Earth, Carnival Kettle, Sweetly Salted Caramel, and Sweet Heat Chili. They also make three flavors that are NOT Dairy Free; Cinema Style, Cheddar Feel-Good, and Smokin’ Jalapeno White Cheddar. When the baby is not around to share with, I sneak a few of these just for myself.
7. Dairy Free Freezer Meals- Some nights it is just too much of a hassle to cook. Or maybe you’re running late and need a quick meal. I always make sure we keep at least one dairy free freezer meal on hand for these occasions. And honestly, sometimes I just want to make an easy meal for the rest of the family and not worry about allergens. The baby has discovered she enjoys Daiya Pizza. It’s an easy way to give her and my daughter pizza because it is gluten free, soy free and dairy free.
These seven items have made the transition to dairy-free much easier for our family. If you are dairy free, what are some of your favorite products?