Tuesday, November 30, 2010

On to the next chapter

Perhaps you have noticed that things have been a bit quiet here at No Whey Baby.  Truth be told, it is because I have been slowly re-introducing dairy into my diet, and after about 6 weeks with no negative reactions on Warren's part, my dairy-free diet is officially over.  I thought this would feel different, that I would be headed straight to Trader Joe's to load up on all my favorite ice creams and cheeses.  On the contrary, I am taking it a step at a time.  The thought of drinking a glass of milk is completely unappealing and I am sticking to almond or coconut milk for my lattes; we went out for pizza to celebrate the other night and while I did enjoy it, the flavor seemed a bit dull - so many of the foods I have come to rely on over the past few months are so much cleaner, brighter, and more flavorful than mozzarella cheese.  Our eating habits have changed for the better, and I hope to keep some of those changes for the long term.

By far the biggest relief has been eating away from home.  About a six weeks ago, for my first big experiment, we went to Cafe Delle Stelle, my favorite little Italian place in Walnut Creek.  I chose something non-cheesy, but for the first time in seven months I didn't cross-examine the waiter before placing my order.  After rapturously eating my linguine with shrimp and savoring a glass of Montepulciano, our waiter asked if we would like to see the dessert menu.  Justin's eyes met mine across the table, and not wanting our carefree dining experience to end, we said yes.  Although I hadn't been planning on testing the waters quite so much, the biscotti with zabaglione sounded too good to pass up.  We were having too much fun to stop now, so I also ordered a coffee with - gulp - cream!  Dreamily, I let each bite melt on my tongue.  As good as we ate on our dairy-free diet, there is still nothing that compares to a rich pudding made with real cream.  I felt just a twinge of guilt when we got back to my mom's to pick up the kids, but Warren was fine the next day, and the day after.  I avoided dairy for the most part until Thanksgiving, trying bits here and there, and then officially ended the diet on a very thankful Thanksgiving Day.  Mashed potatoes and buttery dinner rolls were never appreciated so much.

While I am so glad that this trial didn't last long (I was expecting at least a year), I am thankful for all that the experience has taught me.  I have gained so much compassion for families that have to deal with food allergies, and I hope that I will be able to use my knowledge to help other parents facing this challenge.

Thank you to everyone who has read my stories and encouraged my writing.  At the moment I am thinking about starting another cooking blog, but that will probably wait until after the holidays.  Until then, I hope you continue to find these recipes useful and inspiring.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Vietnamese Meatball Sandwich

You are looking at a picture of one of the tastiest things I have ever made, the Pork Meatball Banh Mi sandwich from Bon App├ętit.  As you can see from the photograph, I was barely able to stop eating it long enough to get my camera.  Words fail me when I try to describe it: a little spicy, a little sweet, a perfect blend of comfort food and exotic flair.  Three weeks later, Isaac is still talking about the meatballs (I simply left the hot sauce out of his portion).  Plus, this recipe is dairy-free and soy-free with no modification!

If you had asked me after my first experience with Vietnamese food, I would have said, "Never again!"  My husband got hooked on the cuisine while working in the financial district in San Francisco, and knowing how much I like to try new things, he was eager to share it with me.  Unfortunately, I was eight weeks pregnant and completely nauseated when he took me to a restaurant that shall remain nameless in a Concord strip mall.  Lesson number one: don't try a new Vietnamese restaurant without a recommendation.  Lesson number two: don't take your queasy wife anywhere that smells like fish sauce.  Needless to say I couldn't keep down the pho with mystery meat that was brought to the flourescent-lit table.

Five months and a lot of convincing later, I found myself walking into Pho 84, a fantastic Vietnamese restaurant near my doctor's office in downtown Oakland.  Soon I was enchanted by the aroma of grilled meats, pickled vegetables, and warm curry.  In many ways it is similar to Thai food, but because of the French colonial influence, it is richer and a bit more sophisticated.  I fell in love, and we made a tradition of  celebrating each healthy checkup with a meal at Pho 84.  Now I can scarcely walk into a doctor's office without drooling at the thought of it.  So drop whatever dinner plans you have for tonight and make some banh mi.  I promise you'll be glad you did!