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Review of Daiya Cheese Substitute

April 23, 2014

So in the whole wake of the no cheese drama, there was much flailing and wailing and gnashing of teeth.  I grabbed The Uncheese Cookbook and kept trying stuff.  There was a recipe in there for a faux buffalo mozzarella that the author swore would melt.  It totally didn’t and the pizza I tried to make with it was possibly the most demoralizing food experience of my life and triggered a total food depression.  Various other dairy free friends had been recommending Daiya as THE CHEESE SUBSTITUTE.  They don’t carry it at my local grocery and I was expecting to have to wait until I drove through the state capitol next month to pick some up at the Whole Foods there.  But as luck would have it, I found some in a town an hour away.  I picked up the cheddar shreds, the mozzarella shreds, the cheddar wedge (actually their version of block cheese), and the jalapeno garlic havarti wedge.

That night, I came home and tried tacos.  They tasted like tacos and the cheddar shreds melted like cheese.  I had a cheeseburger after that and the Daiya melted all over my fingers just like a real cheeseburger.  Tonight I tried the mozzarella shreds with mini pizzas.  OMG, y’all, I cannot tell you how happy I am.  IT MELTS.  IT TASTES LIKE CHEESE.  I give it, two thumbs up!  I no longer feel like my food life is over.


Dairy Free Lemon (Not) Yogurt Cake with Freezer Fruit Compote

April 21, 2014

One of my favorite desserts that I’ve featured on the blog here before was my gluten free Lemon Yogurt Cake with Freezer Fruit Compote.  It’s like a pound cake but lighter, with a lovely bright lemon flavor that just hits the spot for spring.  Since I had 3/4ths of a package of silken tofu left from another recipe fail, I had to figure out SOMETHING to do with it.  As a vegan friend said she often uses it in baking, I decided to take the leap and try converting this recipe to be dairy free as well as gluten free.  The end result was moist, delicious, and–most importantly–indistinguishable from the original version.


  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose gluten free flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbs finely grated lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup silken tofu, blitzed in food processor or blender until smooth and creamy
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • special equipment
  • 8 1/2 4 1/4-inch loaf pan
  • For the compote
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 3 cups frozen strawberries
  • 2 tbs Earth Balance Spread
  • 2 tbs coconut oil (you can do all of this OR Earth Balance, I was just working with what I had)
  • 2 tbs sugar


1. Preheat oven to 350°. Coat pan with vegetable oil spray. Dust with flour; tap out excess.

2. Whisk 1 1/2 cups flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, and kosher salt in a medium bowl.

3. Using your fingers, rub sugar with lemon zest in a large bowl until sugar is moist. Add tofu, applesauce, eggs, and vanilla extract; whisk to blend. Fold in dry ingredients just to blend.

4. Pour batter into prepared pan; smooth top. Bake until top of cake is golden brown and a tester inserted into center comes out clean, 50–55 minutes.

5. Let cake cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Invert onto rack; let cool completely. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

6. To make the compote:

7. Melt the Earth Balance and coconut oil over medium heat.

8. Dice the strawberries  a little and add to the pan.

9. Add the blueberries.

10. Juice the lemons over the pan (careful not to lose any seeds)

11. Add the sugar.

12. Stir well and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until cooked down and kind of syrupy.  This may take quite a while.

13. Let cool a bit and spoon over each slice of cake.  The compote will keep in the fridge for several days.

Is There Life After Cheese?

April 15, 2014

Okay, so that hiatus went on a whole lot longer than I’d originally planned.

Short version:   Life has been–crazy.  2013 was a very full, very stressful year and I really needed that time off from blogging.  I’m still crazy busy, and I don’t know if I’ll be coming back even now, but I have felt this compulsion to post, so here I am.

We’ve got the gluten free thing down in our household.  Now, I’m getting a new challenge, as I’ve recently found out that I’m casein intolerant.  That’s the protein in dairy, for those of you who aren’t in the know.  This is entirely unrelated to lactose intolerance, which is simply those people who lack the enzyme to process lactose and end up with gastro-intestinal discomfort.  There are all kinds of products for the lactose intolerant that are loaded with casein.  In terms of dealing with a casein allergy and the public’s general knowledge–we’re now about where gluten was 15 years ago.  Which is to say that outside of our own kitchens, we’re up s*it creek without a paddle.

I’m working my way through the stages of grief and right now I’m smack dab in the middle of Blisteringly Furious.  I suspect I’m going to be there a while.

Having been through this with hubby for gluten, I know that the most important things I can do are to educate myself, locate the best resources, and to find replacements for a handful of my favorite foods.  The problem being that every single one of my favorite foods uses cheese and there is no acceptable substitute for cheese (I live in the small town south, if you’ll remember).  The “veggie” cheeses at the grocery store have casein.  They’re geared to the lactose intolerant.  There is a product called Daiya, but it is not available within a 3 hour drive of me, and my grocery store won’t order it.  It’s on my list of stuff to pick up on my trip down to New Orleans next month.

A vegan friend recommended to me The Uncheese Cookbookwhich I picked up.  After ordering a bunch of the ingredients I didn’t already have, I’ve been slowly going through and testing recipes in good faith, trying to maintain a positive attitude.  I tried the Nacho Cheeze sauce on nachos, which were awful.  I did discover that it works decently well for an Easy Mac.  Last night I tried the faux mozzarella on pizza (which I’ve been craving for weeks, like WHOA), which was one of the most demoralizing food experiences I’ve ever had.  It didn’t melt (casein is what makes cheese gloriously gooey and melty and wonderful) as the book said.  Which ended up being a good thing, as I could still peel it off and at least eat my soggy tomato bread (which is what pizza is without cheese).  I spent the rest of the night on the verge of tears.  This would be after the weekend when we had a family dinner and I was asked to make a lemon icebox pie (I make kick ass awesome lemon icebox pie).  I tried a vegan version that turned out like lemon snot, so I went ahead and made the real thing for everybody else and got to watch them nom and rave while I got nothing.  And we circle back around to Blisteringly Furious and Depressed on the verge of tears.

I’ve been looking around trying to find some good resources for dairy free food blogs.  I’m really annoyed at all the ones out there with the sanctimonious lectures about how dairy is so bad for you and blah blah.  I, frankly, don’t give a damn how bad it is for you.  The lecture doesn’t help me know how to live without cheese.  It was my one food that, if asked what I could never live without, I always said.  This is so sucktastic I don’t even know where to start.  All the other dairy stuff–milk, desserts, that kind of thing are adaptable.  I already found other stuff for those during the elimination diet that led to this discovery in the first place.  But cheese?

I’ve got another good friend also going dairy free due to other medical reasons, and we’ve been commiserating and shaking our fists at the Universe.  And I know we’re not alone.  I guess that’s why I posted today.   So I can’t promise I’ll be back here regularly with normal food bloggy stuff, but I will be here to post about my experience with going dairy free, sharing the resources I find and what works and what doesn’t.  If you have stuff to share with others, please feel free to email me at potsandplots (at) gmail (dot) com, catch me on twitter @kaitnolan or on Facebook.

At some point, I’ll go through my archives here and tag the recipes that are already naturally dairy free (as I did for gluten free).  Given how much I love dairy, I doubt there will be a whole lot.


March 7, 2013

I am on official hiatus for a while.  I’m still cooking, but right now, there’s SO MUCH going on in my life, I just don’t have it in me to do a lot of recipe development or posting.  I’ll be back, and will no doubt make some posts from time to time.  If you’d like to keep up without actually having to check back here on any kind of basis, sign up over there for posts by email or RSS and whatever comes out will pop up in your inbox or your feed reader.  Take care!

Gluten Free Friday: Barbeque Chicken Stromboli

February 22, 2013

Okay this isn’t really a classic stromboli.  Real stromboli has all these lovely layered Italian meats and veggies.  But I had some leftover rotisserie chicken and a hankering for barbeque AND pizza and…well, this is what I wound up doing with it.  The end result was quite tasty.


Special equipment:

  • parchment paper (You will thank me for this later)
  • pizza stone or pan


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  If you’re using a pizza stone, pop it in during the preheat.
  2. Tear off a piece of parchment paper that’s approximately the same size as  your stone or pan.
  3. Oil your hands.
  4. Plop the dough down on your parchment paper and press into a thin rectangle (you’re looking at about an eighth of an inch thick at the most).
  5. Brush a layer of barbeque sauce down the center.
  6. Sprinkle the chicken down the center.
  7. Add a little more barbeque sauce.
  8. Sprinkle the cheese over the top of the chicken.
  9. Now, here’s where you’re going to thank me for that parchment paper.  Carefully lift one side and fold it over the middle.  You should be able to peel the parchment paper back (not off, as it’s going to bake on it–you’re just folding).
  10. Repeat on the other side and press seam closed.
  11. Carefully transfer the stromboli to your pizza stone (I recommend using a pizza peel so you don’t drop it) or place the pan in the oven.
  12. Bake for 10 minutes.
  13. Slice into chunks all the way down.
  14. Serve with more barbeque sauce for dipping.

Printable version.

Mix It Up Monday: Baked Lemon Pasta With Chicken and Pastamore’s Lemon Garlic Orzo

February 18, 2013

One of my great pleasures as a food blogger is the opportunity to try products that I otherwise would never have access to.  A while back I was offered the chance to try out some of Pastamore’s gourmet gluten free pasta line from J.D. Gourmet.  I got three (so there will be more recipes to come) but straight out of the box I KNEW I had to try the lemon garlic orzo in Pioneer Woman’s Baked Lemon Pasta.  The only changes I made to her recipe was to half it, use light sour cream, and add in some rotisserie chicken for Mr. Carnivore.  And of course using this gluten free orzo instead of the spaghetti.

The pasta itself has a lovely flavor, though not quite enough on its own to enjoy with just a touch of olive oil, IMO.  It paired beautifully with the lemon and garlic in this cream sauce.  The texture was properly pasta-like and did not become overly gelatinous on sitting (we had half for leftovers) as so many gluten free pastas do.  Overall, I was very impressed with the quality of this product!  Thank you J.D. Gourmet for this opportunity.   I’ll be writing about the tomato basil fettucini and the wild mushroom linguini as I try them.

Review: Lean Cuisine Chef’s Pick Culinary Roundtable

February 11, 2013

I make no secret of the fact that I am a food snob.  Or the fact that I really like to eat.  So when I think of Lean Cuisine, the first word that comes to mind historically is DISAPPOINTED.  They never ever look as good as the picture on the box.  The portion sizes are miniscule and hold me over for about half an hour.  And the food itself was usually fairly tasteless and unimpressive, often with a rubbery, overcooked texture that I have come to expect from a microwave dinner.

But I’d been hearing noises about the Chef’s Pick collection.  This is a thing the last few years with the insane popularity of the Food Network and the Cooking Channel.  People bringing in chefs to overhaul their food and raise the bar for what people expect.  So when the opportunity came up through the Tastemakers program to try some of Lean Cuisine’s new Chef’s Pick dinners, I signed up.

I’d checked out the list of possible flavors on the website and was EXCITED.  Among them:

  • Spinach Artichoke Ravioli
  • Chili Lime Chicken
  • Mushroom Mezzaluna Ravioli
  • Chicken Makhani
  • Chicken Carbonara
  • Chicken with Basil Cream Sauce
  • Chicken Pecan
  • Thai-Style Chicken

It took me a while to find them in my local Walmart.  We have gobs of Lean Cuisines but only ONE SHELF (out of about 10) of the Chef’s Pick options.  Sadly MOST of the ones I’d wanted to try weren’t here.  Small town, what can I expect.  But I did pick up the Chicken Marsala and the Ranchero Braised Beef.

First, the chicken marsala.  As you can see from the box, this is a beautiful dish in its base form.  I know something about staging and food photography and this is something Lean Cuisine actually has always done well…making what’s supposed to be in the box LOOK appealing.  But hint hint.  This thing is only 220 calories and 6 grams of fat.  That dish you see there is about the size of a saucer from a tea set.  Again, this is expected.  It’s part of that restricted calorie thing.  But what about what’s inside the box?

Um, yeah…this is not what the picture looked like.  Not really anything they can do about that.  It’s part and parcel of the whole microwave dinner phenomenon.    So I grabbed a salad plate and scooped it out in an effort to see if I could, in any way, replicate the picture.

Clearly there’s WAY more gravy in this box than they used in the shoot, and I’m fairly certain there was more risotto in the shoot than is in the box.  But I’m not really grading them for presentation.  I do not expect to eat a frozen dinner with my eyes first.

So what about the most important question: How did it taste?

I was…shocked.  This was truly delicious.  I had no idea it was possible to pull chicken out of the microwave that was this moist and flavorful.  The flavor combinations tasted fresh and very, very appealing.  The portion size is still only enough to feed a half starved pixie, but pair it with a big green salad or another veggie and you might actually have a solid lunch.

Now for the Ranchero Braised Beef.  Same kind of thing. Pretty on the box.

Not so much on the inside.

Tiny portions, though a bit more filling than the chicken marsala.

The flavor here wasn’t bad.  I really enjoyed the chipotle mashed sweet potatoes (I love the combination of chili powder with sweet potatoes in general).  The beef didn’t fair quite as well as the chicken in the reheating department, though it still was better than such things usually are in a frozen dinner.  I didn’t find this over spicy, though some people might.  There are no jalapenos in the box, in case you were worried.

The verdict:  I think Lean Cuisine has really upped their game with this line.  Much better flavor, much better texture and quality of food.  Kudos for that.  My only gripe is that it’s not enough food for me.  Never has been.  This is a snack, not a meal, IMO.

Disclosure: I have partnered with Lean Cuisine through DailyBuzz Food to help promote their new line of Chef’s Pick products. I have been compensated for my time commitment to work with this product. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments. Thank you Lean Cuisine!


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