Wednesday, June 30, 2010


One of the things I missed the most during my pregnancy was sushi (raw fish is on the ever-growing list of pregnancy no-nos).  For nine long months I craved and dreamed about it, counting the days until I could eat what I pleased.  My mom brought me a spicy salmon roll while I was still in the hospital, and I never suspected that my favorite treat would soon be taken from me again.  After we discovered Warren's soy allergy, we ordered some sushi takeout anyway, but needless to say, dry sushi rolls were less than satisfying.  It just wasn't the same without the dark, salty, wasabi-laced dip.

Enter Midori, the most gracious restaurant owner you'll ever meet.  My family has been eating at Sushi Bar Hana, her Danville restaurant, since I was five years old.  When my mom went in for dinner, she told Midori that I probably wouldn't be around much because I couldn't eat soy.  That night, I got a phone call from my mom, telling me that there was actually a soy sauce alternative!  Another regular at Hana is allergic to soy and brings her own sauce, and Midori wrote down the name.  I was a little skeptical but excited to give it a try.

Since a visit to Hana was a given when my sisters were in town, we trekked to Whole Foods and found a bottle of Coconut Secret soy-free seasoning sauce, and at the first taste I could not believe how good it was!   The stuff is made from coconut tree sap of all things, but somehow it tastes just like soy sauce.  Just being back at Hana with my family, enjoying my favorite meal, made this whole allergy business seem a lot more bearable.

Besides dipping sushi, I am looking forward to trying the Coconut Secret in some Asian cooking at home.  Be on the lookout for new recipes!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Dinner for Dad

cooking in the backyard

Last night we celebrated Justin's last night of paternity leave with one of his favorite meals: pan-fried ribeye steak with mushrooms, roasted potatoes with rosemary, and brussels sprouts.  Yes, brussels sprouts.  Don't believe me?  Try this recipe.  I promise you'll become a believer.

Bacon-Balsamic Brussels Sprouts

1 lb. brussels sprouts, stem ends trimmed & loose leaves removed
1 tsp salt
2 slices thick-cut applewood smoked bacon
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp honey
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper

Fry bacon until crisp.  Chop and place in large bowl.  Add balsamic vinegar, honey, and olive oil.  Set aside.

In large skillet, bring 1/2 inch water to a simmer.  Add 1 tsp salt and brussels sprouts.  Cover and cook over medium-low heat until sprouts are just tender when pierced with a sharp knife.  Uncover and increase heat to medium-high until the water has evaporated; allow sprouts to brown just slightly.  Remove from heat.  Add sprouts to bowl with bacon mixture and toss to combine.  Season to taste with pepper.

I got the fingerling potatoes and the brussels sprouts at the Diablo Valley farmer's market at Shadelands in Walnut Creek.  It was my first visit and it was a wonderful farmer's market with a huge selection of produce.  It's Saturday mornings starting at 9.  Check it out!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Thai Iced Tea

One of my very favorite drinks is Thai iced tea.  Something about the rich red color and the snowy swirl of milk just makes it feel special.  We made a big batch this week and it adapted quite nicely to being dairy-free.  The most challenging part of this recipe is going to an Asian market to find the tea.  I went to 99 Ranch Market and had to ask for help as the tea aisle was quite overwhelming.  Having conquered that, all you have to do is brew it according to the package directions and sweeten to taste.  If you have had Thai iced tea in a restaurant, you know they like to sweeten it quite a bit (think Southern sweet tea).  Then just chill, pour over ice, and add about 2-3 tablespoons of your milk alternative of choice.  I have tried it with coconut milk and with vanilla almond milk, and both were quite nice.  It was just the pick-me-up I needed at about 4 o'clock this afternoon.  Ahhh...summer.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wine Country

All the chicks were back in the nest this week, as my mom likes to say, meaning that both of my sisters were in town. We had a great time hanging out, introducing my new brother-in-law to the Bay Area, and enjoying lots of good food, of course! I just have to rave about our day in Napa, where I enjoyed some of my best meals in a while, allergy restricted or not!

First we went to the Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa. It's sort of a glorified food court with some outstanding restaurants. At Pica Pica, I ordered a sweet corn cake with marinated skirt steak, black beans, and plantains with a side of yucca fries. Where has this meal been all my life? I am currently plotting my next trip so I can order another.

From there we took Isaac to his first big-screen movie (in 3D, no less!). Toy Story 3 was delightful, as were my Junior Mints. Our last destination was downtown Sonoma. After some wine tasting,

Isaac covering himself in dirt during said wine tasting

we walked over to
The Girl and the Fig, a French restaurant right on the square. Our knowledgeable waiter took me through the entire menu and there were actually several suitable options, but my heart sang when he uttered the words, "The duck confit would be ok." Duck confit? Are you kidding? I could go 1,000 years without cheese if there is duck confit in my world! So rich, so luxurious, so melt-in-your mouth fabulous nestled there on top of a warm frisée salad and roasted fingerling potatoes. And then, on the wall of the dining room on our way out, what did I see? The duck confit recipe published in Bon Appétit magazine! Not that I have time for any such elaborate undertaking, but it's nice to know I could, in theory, anyway. If there is someone out there with a little more free time than me, here is the link to the recipe:

On a side note, Isaac had the grilled cheese with
pommes frites and garlic aioli. As we walked through the square on our way home, he lifted his head off his daddy's shoulder to say, "Mommy, those were very good fries." That's my boy!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Camp Chili

In spite of the many "You must be crazy!" looks we got when we told people we were going camping with a 3 year old and a 2 month old, I am happy to report that our first family camping trip was a great success! Isaac had a blast, Warren was happy, and we made it a whole week on the road with no allergy incidents. Most of the credit goes to my husband, who tirelessly set up camp every day while I nursed the baby. But another thing that made it really manageable was that I made the meals ahead of time and froze them in Ziploc bags. By the time we were all hungry in the evening, all we had to do was heat it up on the Coleman stove, and we were enjoying delicious homemade meals around a campfire in the beauty of the woods. Bliss!

I developed this particular chili recipe while I was in college. It was inspired by one of the many wonderful chilis at the annual Ithaca Chili Fest, held every March when the spice of the food helped ward off the lingering cold of winter. It has been an enduring favorite owing to its complex flavor, inexpensive ingredients, and ease of preparation. And as a bonus, it's rich in iron, protein, fiber and vitamin C. It's great by itself, but I also like it served over steamed rice. Enjoy!

Emilee's Chili

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 14 oz. can yellow corn, drained
1 14 oz. can black beans, drained
1 14 oz. can kidney beans, drained
1 14 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes with green chiles*
1 14 oz. can tomato sauce
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cocoa powder
1 tsp instant coffee
1/2 tsp cinnamon
cayenne pepper to taste (optional)
salt & pepper to taste

In a large skillet, saute onions in olive oil over medium heat until onions begin to soften. Add garlic and cook one minute, stirring. Add ground beef and cook until browned, breaking up meat with wooden spoon. Add all remaining ingredients except salt & pepper and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer about 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Cookies Worth Eating

Last week I tried a chocolate chip cookie recipe that used oil instead of butter. The batter was a little gummy and bland, and the finished cookies were just ok - not terrible, but a bit pale and devoid of flavor. "Hmm, they seem to be missing something...butter, maybe?" my husband teased.

If I'm going to waste calories on something as frivolous as a cookie, it had better be worth it. Determined to enjoy rich, chewy, fresh-baked cookies, I decided to address the three main issues: gummy texture, bland flavor, and pale color.

Flavor seemed the easiest to remedy. First, I added a generous amount of almond meal to provide rich nuttiness. I also increased the vanilla and used applesauce to replace part of the butter. For the rest of the butter substitute, I used a home-made "margarine" of coconut oil and olive oil, both much richer in flavor than the vegetable oil in my original recipe. This margarine is whipped to incorporate air, which did wonders for the texture. Finally, I increased the sugar, which helped the cookies brown, made them more tender, and also improved the flavor.

So here they are, my tender, flavorful, totally-worth-eating dairy-free chocolate chip cookies.


2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup home-made "margarine" (see below)
1 cup (packed) brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups semisweet dairy-free chocolate chips

For the margarine: Combine 1/2 cup room temperature coconut oil and 1/4 cup light olive oil in a small metal bowl. Place this bowl inside a larger bowl filled with ice water. Using a handheld electric mixer, beat until light and creamy. This will make more than you need for the cookies. Keep refrigerated, as it melts quickly.

For the cookies: Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats.

Combine flour, almond meal, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Place 1/2 cup chilled margarine and both sugars in large mixing bowl. Beat on medium speed until creamy. Add applesauce, eggs, and vanilla and beat until well combined. Add flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.

Place rounded tablespoons of dough on cookie sheets, spacing them 2" apart. Bake 9-11 minutes, until light golden (they will not get quite as dark as cookies made with butter; do not over bake). Cool one minute on sheet, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

On the Road

Traveling has proven to be one of the more challenging aspects of avoiding dairy-laden meals. This weekend we headed up to Sacramento for my husband to take an exam and to visit some dear friends. We stopped at In-N-Out Burger on the way there, and I ordered my new standard: A Number 3 Protein style, add pickles, no onions. I have ordered it 3 times before with no objections from Warren, but this time I think my patty mingled with some cheese on the griddle and I had a fussy baby for the next two days. Farewell my sweet In & Out, I shall miss you! At least I can still eat the fries.

Surprisingly, I had a terrific meal with no problems at Swabbies, a crazy dive on the Sacramento River. Live music, rowdy crowd, margaritas, tri-tip, baked beans and coleslaw. Yum! I also had a great time dancing with Isaac, my little party animal.

I did come home with one exciting souvenir: my friend Britni's coveted carrot cake recipe, which is made with oil and no butter! Now I just need to come up with an alternative to the cream-cheese frosting, so I will get in the kitchen and start experimenting soon. Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Coconut Mocha

I am very blessed that my husband got me an espresso machine a couple years ago, because coffee shops are out: they offer soy milk as the only dairy alternative. Most mornings I have a vanilla latte at home made with either rice milk or almond milk, and now that I am used to the taste, I don't even miss the "real" milk. But since I had leftover coconut milk from my curry the other night, I decided to experiment, and the coconut mocha was born!


1/4 cup regular coconut milk + 1/2 cup water
1 shot espresso
1 heaping teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
sugar or agave nectar to taste (about 1-2 tsp)

Combine sugar and cocoa in coffee mug. Steam diluted coconut milk to 180 degrees; set aside. Prepare espresso shot and add to mug, stirring to dissolve sugar & cocoa. Add steamed coconut milk and stir.

If you don't have an espresso machine, I think regular coconut milk would make an excellent coffee creamer. I have tried adding rice or almond milk to regular coffee but they just don't have enough richness to stand up to the coffee, especially if you brew it strong.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Thai Curry Shrimp

All I have to say is, thank goodness for coconut milk! The curry I made for dinner last night was fantastic, and I'll be sure to take a picture next time I make it (which will be soon!). Once you have all your ingredients prepped, which could be done ahead, this comes together very quickly. Serves 2-3.


1 Tbsp canola oil
2 Tbsp. Thai red curry paste
1 14 oz. can light coconut milk OR 2/3 cup regular coconut milk + water to make 14 oz.
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock (homemade or low-sodium)
2 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 cup pineapple chunks (fresh or frozen)
1 red bell pepper, cut in strips
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 small ripe heirloom tomatoes, cored & cut in chunks
1 large carrot, peeled & thinly sliced
1 lb. shrimp, peeled & de-veined
1/2 cup fresh Thai basil leaves
Steamed jasmine rice to serve

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add curry paste and shallots and stir; cook until paste is fragrant and shallots soften, about 2 minutes. Add coconut milk and bring to a simmer, stirring to blend. Add chicken stock, then pineapple & vegetables. Simmer until vegetables are almost tender, then add shrimp. Cook until shrimp are opaque. Add fish sauce, sugar, and basil, and cook until basil just begins to wilt. Serve over warm jasmine rice.

To really make the meal, serve with Thai iced tea with coconut milk or an off-dry Riesling.

Scary Dairy...

...crossed my mind as a title for my blog. My sister said it was too creepy. Ok, fine. But I have been having recurring nightmares about milk and cookies. In a moment of weakness or forgetfulness I eat one, only to realize that my poor baby will be in pain for the next three days. If it was my own allergy, I would be more relaxed about the whole thing. But the severity of his sensitivity requires that I be extremely vigilant about what and where I eat. Every time I see that sweet, goofy grin, it is worth it a million times over.

Let the cooking begin!

Welcome to my blog! When my son Warren was born 8 weeks ago, he was precious, but colicky. Every evening he would cry for about an hour before finally falling asleep, exhausted. When he started having some other odd symptoms, I turned to google and found that he was most likely allergic to dairy. I called his pediatrician and she confirmed the diagnosis and told me to cut it out of my diet to see if he improved. Almost immediately, his colic vanished. Well, this shouldn't be too hard, I thought. They have soy substitutes for just about everything, and I love Asian food. But then I ate some soy sauce, and the screaming resumed...oh my, this is going to be an adventure!

Here I will share recipes, meal-planning strategies, and my experiences dining out with dairy and soy restrictions. I will be learning as I go, and am hoping someone else out there finds this helpful!