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The Dairy Free Thing: Six Months In (Almost. I don’t do math.)

Are you still doing that dairy-free thing?

I swear to you, this is the most frequently asked question when I run into people, either in real life or online. I would like to think it’s because it’s a fascinating topic, but really I think it’s because people consider me freakish in my desire to cut dairy out for no particular reason.

It’s true, that statement above. I don’t believe myself to have a full-fledged allergy to dairy, but I do believe I had a sensitivity issue with it. An intolerance, if you will. And yes, for the most part, I am still doing that dairy-free thing.

So it’s now been about .. five months? ish? since I started. I should state here that I am not whole-hog about the no-dairy thing; folks who have a real allergy to it will often avoid baked goods, breads, etc. I am not that woman. If I’m going to give up cheese, FINE I GUESS, but there is no way I’m going to give up cheese and bread. You will pry my Olive Garden breadsticks from my cold, cheese-free hands.

It’s not so bad, this thing. I mean, it takes some getting used to – the hardest part was that I was forced to actually reconsider what I was ordering or cooking. It’s so natural for me to say “A #3, please” at any drive-thru lane, but now I have to stop and think about what’s actually ON said #3.

I also don’t shy away from dairy in something that includes scant amounts. For instance, when I make Aunt Patty’s broccoli salad, sometimes I do include some cheese. Sometimes I don’t. If I do include it, it’s maybe 1/4 of a cup, so an actual serving size has negligible amounts in there.

And, true, if I drive through McDonald’s on my way to a 7:00 a.m. meeting, I will order a large coffee with four creams and four Splendas. Because their creamer is powdered, so .. my brain says there’s not a lot of true dairy in there.

BUT! Because you guys are so curious, here’s what I’ve found that helps me by.

I mentioned McDonald’s and coffee up there, but honestly, most mornings I make chai green tea at home. A little (okay, a lot) bit of natural honey and some So Delicious Coconut Cream and I’m good to go. I have long been a half-and-half girl in my coffee or tea, but I don’t miss it AT ALL with this stuff. Honestly, I like it way better than any dairy cream I’ve ever used. It’s not quite as thick as heavy cream, but it’s far superior to any non-dairy dried creamer I’ve ever tried.

It’s fair to mention that I’ve never been a milk drinker. Milk has always made me gag – I could only drink whole milk, believe it or not, and even then it was forcibly swallowed – so I figured I wouldn’t need to replace it with anything. Turns out, I still used milk in stuff. Cereal, cooking, recovery chocolate milk after a run.. I was finding lots of places I still needed gross ole milk. I tried soy milk, but .. it wasn’t for me. So I tried Silk Pure Almond Milk .. and I really like it! Where I would never have a glass of dairy milk just because, I can drink this stuff. Willingly, even! I get the vanilla unsweetened kind because most often I use it in cereal or chocolate milk, so the sweetened stuff is kind of too much.

This is not really dairy related, but I thought I’d share this just the same. I switched to Nutiva Organic Coconut Oil about a year and a half ago for all things oil-related. We still keep some canola and olive oils in the house, but this is our main go-to when sauteing or cooking or what have you. Honestly, if one of us has dry skin, I use this on the rough patches. I’ve also been known to put some on split ends before a shower. It’s AWESOME. And no, it doesn’t taste at all like coconut. (But it does SMELL like Hawaii while you cook, and that’s never a bad thing.) And since I’ve started using it, both mine and Bryan’s cholesterol have come down considerably. (There’s also lots of other theories on the benefits of coconut oils!)

Now the rest of my family still drinks regular milk, and that’s fine with me. In fact, I ran out of their milk one late night and Tony asked for some. I gave him my almond milk and he took one sip and said, “Momma, this milk is yucky.” Okay, fine, I said, don’t drink it. “Momma, it’s so yucky, I think someone went poo-poo in this when I was not in here.”

That’s a bit SPECIFIC, child, but okay, thanks, I get the point. How about YOU head out to the store and get more milk FROM A COW’S TEAT?

By the way, it does NOT taste like someone went poo-poo in it while you were not in there.

Everyone always asks how much weight I’ve lost and I have to always shrug and say None. Cause I haven’t really. The scale hasn’t budged. BUT I had some “pooch” in my lower stomach, and I always wondered if it was more than fat. It’s shrunken considerably. (Probably would go away completely if I went 100% dairy- and gluten-free.) And my body is redistributing stuff differently, so that’s awesome. Also, I so rarely eat to the point of uncomfortably full now. I didn’t realize how easily and mindlessly I was doing that. It is the rare exception for me to be uncomfortable after a meal now.. most times, I stop when I’m full.

(Of course, I say that, but tonight I had some leftover cinnabons for dessert and am about to settle into Jenny’s new book on my Kindle with a glass or two of sweet red wine.)(Also, because I’m damn proud of it, I want to note that I did not BUY said cinnabons, I made those bitches. On an early Saturday morning AFTER running a 5K.)

So, yes. There’s my dairy-free lifestyle. You’ll find a lot of new snacky type things in my house that were typically occupied by cheese before. (Or yogurt. I miss you, yogurt.) Avocados, apples, oranges, Riceworks crisps, cashews .. those are all my go-tos now. I can’t say that I really miss dairy (other than yogurt)(or sour cream)(OR QUESO)(OKAY, SHUT UP, I MISS IT), but I doubt I’ll ever go back to the way that I used to eat.

I have no clever way to wrap this up. So on to my wine.

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This Would’ve Been Useful Last Week: Baking Your Eggs

Hey! It’s Easter tomorrow! Which means I’m spending most of the day in the kitchen today, getting ready for our big family feast. I even skipped out on my run this morning, which no doubt will eat at me throughout the day, but I needed the time.

Also, the sleep.

So I meant to tell you this last week because, um, you probably could’ve used it, but here.

DON’T BOIL YOUR EGGS ANYMORE. BAKE THEM.

I know, that sounds odd. But here’s what I did. And this is not even something that I pioneered; it was brought to my attention by my husband’s hero, Alton Brown. See, little known fact about my husband: before he decided to major in Acting and Directing, he planned to be a chemist. I know; he’s incredibly complex. So while he’s not much for fancy cooking, he’s a HUGE fan of anything Alton Brown. (Also another reason: Alton Brown’s show was filmed in Atlanta, where my husband worked in technical theatre for years, so he sees something he knows on EVERY show.)

Alton Brown recommends BAKING your eggs to achieve hard-boiled-ed-ness. I’m sure he has some scientific reason for it, but mine boils down to (HAR HAR) the fact that I cannot keep my eyes on boiling stuff. Inevitably, I will become entrenched in some deep cleaning behind my washer or a really good episode of Real Houseives of Insert Locale Here and BLAM! I have eggs that are catching fire in my kitchen. Seriously. My life is hard.

So baking them was right up my alley. And it really was simple!

You can do this with as many or as few eggs as you like. I’ve done it twice now, both times with whatever batch of eggs I had in my fridge that were on the verge of my husband determining them “too old”, and it’s worked with four, six, or twelve. There’s no saying you couldn’t do several dozen at a time.

Quick and dirty:

  • Preheat your oven to 325°.
  • Once it’s heated, line your eggs directly on your oven racks.
  • Let them bake for 25-30 minutes.
  • Remove them (carefully! I used silicone-coated tongs) from the oven.
  • Place them in an ice bath for 10 minutes.

DONE.

The questions I always get:

Directly on your oven racks? Yes. I know. I doubted at first that this would work. And if you’re OCD, like me, you can test out the size of your eggs before you preheat your oven. But of the many eggs I’ve baked, they have 100% fit perfectly in-between the “ribs” of your oven rack. See the picture for proof.

What about if they break? Look, anything could happen, so I’m not going to stand here and guarantee that nothing will. But I will say that of all the baking I’ve done, I’ve never had a single egg break or spill. However, see above OCD comment, and I almost always put a baking sheet in there on the rack below the eggs. JUST IN CASE. COMPLETELY PROVEN UNNECESSARY SO FAR.

What are these brown spots? I don’t know, but some eggs develop brown spots on the shells as they cook. Based on my scientific observations, they’re sometimes related to the spots where the shells come into direct contact with the tines. But it doesn’t effect the flavor or the eggs nor is it unsafe.

How well do they peel? So, that is the ONE downside I’ve found to this method. I’m not a person who’s ever had an issue peeling eggs, but these have proven kind of difficult. My hint: take them directly from the 10 minute ice bath and peel them under running, cool/cold water. The water gets into the shell and kind of loosens it up. But even with that hint, I was kind of bummed with how these were not easy-peel eggs.

So before you go trying to boil two dozen eggs for a PAAS vinegar bath, might want to give this method a try so that you have half an hour back in your day!

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Aunt Patty’s Broccoli Salad

My mom called me last week raving about some weird salad she’d made. She rattled off the ingredients and I thought, Hm. Nope. because they were just so .. odd. And unappetizing, really. But I played nice, saying, “Sounds lovely!” or something else misleading enough to make her think that I wanted her to make some for me.

She called me on Monday and said, “Well, I’m cooking today! I’ve got a large batch of that broccoli salad for you to try!”

Ooooookay. Guess I’ve got to put my compliments where my mouth is.

When I stopped by to pick up the 2 qt container, she convinced me to try a small ramekin of the salad that she had put aside. I looked at it, all weird and mix-ey looking, and hesitated. Okay, hesitated may be a bit bold because I really will try any food once. So I took a small spoonful and swallowed.

Then proceeded to inhale the rest of the ramekin.

And have eaten it for lunch every day this week. And sometimes dinner.

.. I’m a fan of this salad, is what I’m saying here.

This recipe came from my Aunt Patty, which is awesome because she – like myself and my sister – is dairy-free. She’s also gluten-free after discovering an intolerance. So you know that any recipe that comes from her will involve real food AND will leave out stuff I can’t have. Also, it’s usually incredibly good.

I know. You’re going to read this list of ingredients and shudder. It’s alright. I didn’t get it at first pass, either. And if you’re on the fence about broccoli, I will say that you don’t taste much of the broccoli. It’s almost entirely included for texture. This is a great salad to make on a Sunday night and then munch on through the week.

Aunt Patty’s Broccoli Salad

Salad:

  • 2 heads broccoli (cut and chopped down to mostly florets, and you can mix broccoli & cauliflower)
  • 1/2 C raisins (my mother used dried cherries as well for nutritional goodness)
  • 1 C grated cheese (veggie shreds work well in this salad)
  • 6-8 strips bacon, cooked crispy and crumbled
  • 1/4 C purple onion, minced (I think we used sweet onion on this, because I pretty much detest onion)

Dressing:

  • 1 C Mayo
  • 2 T Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/4 C sugar (or equal mix sugar/splenda or sugar/honey or agave or whatever)

Mix all the salad stuff together. Mix all the dressing stuff together. Combine. Refrigerate for however long you want. It only gets better with time.

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No, Paula, not you too.

Picture is unrelated, mostly. But TOTALLY related to my love of Paula Deen Riding Things.

Also, if you’re still in the feed reader, I apologize if, like, four images of Paula Deen invading The Hangover pop up. I’m still trying to figure all these fancy buttons out over here.

I love Paula Deen. I do. I find her infectious, and I love that she understands southern cooking and has used food as a means to overcome agoraphobia and other issues. I adore her, really. I love southern women who are loud and boisterous and understand the power of a good hug and good macaroni and cheese.

However.

While I will turn to her recipes first if I need to cook a southern classic, I am leery of putting more than one dish of hers on the table. They are mightily unhealthy. Macaroni and cheese is good. But it needs to be surrounded by steamed veggies and lean proteins. Not more fried, carby goodness. (Mmm. Carby.)

So I was saddened but not surprised when news broke this morning that Paula Deen has Type II Diabetes and will soon serve as the spokesperson for a drug related to the disease. What I find saddening is that Paula seems to feel like most adults of her generation feel – that Type II Diabetes is something they must live with and medicate. That it cannot be cured.

I feel the need to caveat my words every time I mount my nutrition soapbox because, look, I know. I know you look at me and think there’s no way someone like me could know anything about food. You look at me – overweight me – and think I don’t know anything about food.

But – thing is, I do.

I may be overweight. I’m not at what my doctor refers to as “my fighting weight” – I’m about fifteen pounds over. But my stats? My doctor is AMAZED at my stats, so much so that he doesn’t see the need for me to lose any more weight. Because I eat well, and I try and feed my family similarly, my numbers are PERFECT. I may not be proud of my body, but I’m damn sure proud of our health.

I can’t tell you how many folks I’ve seen come down the food journey with me the last few years and turn their lives around. I have had friends who came off of meds for: high blood pressure, dangerously high cholesterol, arthritis, and yes – Type II Diabetes. They did it through portion control, through exercise, and through eating well.

I applaud Paula for coming out about her disease, because the nation needs a wake-up call that fried butter may be delicious (mmm, butter), but it’s not healthy in mass portions. I can’t imagine how hard it was for her to admit that her eating and her cooking – both of which are her BRAND – led to this disease. But I wish she had taken the harder route. I wish she had said, I’m not going to back the pharmaceutical companies. I’m going to go to the farmers and the gym. Because THAT’S what the nation needs to see. Not another Wilfred Brimley hawing diabetes care supplies midday during Divorce Court.

Sorry. DIAH-BEET-TUHS.

I worry about the generation before us. I see the wrongs that our FDA started cramming down their throats start to come to fruition. They didn’t know about High Fructose Corn Syrup and what a number it does on you. They didn’t know that so much bread and grain can wreck your digestive system. They didn’t know because they were doing what they were told, and making good with what they could. I totally get that.

I just wish someone could stand up to the FDA and its cronies now and say: ENOUGH.

/dismount soapbox

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Two Weeks In: Dairy-Free

So, here’s the run-down on my dairy-free existence.

It is, in fact, a sad existence. On many levels.

As you may remember, Christmas Eve & Christmas Day provided me with two wonderful days in which I could stuff my face with anything I could get my hands on. And admittedly, I am a sucker for Christmas cookies. We have a pretty rugged set of Christmas standards, and when those showed up, I was all “C IS FOR COOKIE” and my fingers flailed and my eyes went waggily and BOOM.

STOMACH PAIN FROM HELL.

Four Ex-Lax later, I realized that the box said “relief within six to twelve hours”. Well, I took the first maximum dose and waited three hours, and when nothing happened, I doubled the dose. And as literacy would’ve indicated had I used it, stuff started moving in six hours. LIKE, MOVING. FOR REALS.

So I decided to start doing some elimination stuff to see if I could do better with my gullet. Dairy seemed like the obvious choice because I’ve always been one to have a sensitivity to it. (It just never stopped me.)(Ever.) I was all, “Oh, I’ll just say No Cheese to everything and it’ll be cool.”

Hey, guess what? Dairy is in, like, A LOT.

But I was committed. I bought a couple of substitutions – I drink coconut creamer in my coffee and if I’m absolutely craving milk, I have almond milk in the fridge – but other than that? I’ve just avoided it altogether. It’s forced me to put a more “real/whole foods” perspective in our family meals. We eat protein, veggies, a rice/starch, and a bread. It’s been easier and harder. It’s taken a lot more planning, but hey, once you get the swing of it, it kind of happens on its own.

I keep a meal or two for me ready through the week, because sometimes the boys just want pizza. And that’s cool, or whatever. I’ll happily eat my spicy thai noodles or my chicken salad.

And do I feel better? Dude, this is gonna sound so hippie crunchy and I know that – but this is also the girl who makes her own laundry detergent and fabric softener now, so – but I do feel SO much better. To the point that when I have some dairy, either hidden or by choice, I feel like CRAP. There’s an almost immediate reaction to it, to the point that I wonder how I ate through the pain earlier. Because it hurts.

I don’t do scales or weight or anything like that, but I feel leaner. If that makes any sense. My clothes are fitting a little better and I feel like I’m shedding a skin. I didn’t realize how bloated I was until I wasn’t anymore.

Now, do I think that I have an allergy to lactose? Or even an intolerance? I don’t know. I’m not a doctor. I do think it’s kind of night and day how I feel on and off dairy, though.

Will I live this way forever? I think it’s impractical to think that I’d never have dairy, but it’s either a conscious choice (sometimes, I just NEED some full-fat ice cream) or hidden dairy for now. I might start to slowly add quality dairy back in over time, but it won’t be any time soon.

I also don’t force it on my family, but it’s funny how easily they’ve taken to it. Bryan’s never been a huge cheese fan, and Tony kind of abhors it on anything. Jack can go either way. They all still drink a lot of milk, which I’m totally okay with – they’re still growing and need the calcium. (Note to self: buy the calcium supplements this weekend.) If I make anything that uses dairy, I make it available as a condiment they can add if they want to, and they most often ignore it entirely.

Yes, I still have cravings. And it takes me FOREVER to order food now if we go out to eat. But in the long run, I’m kind of digging this dairy-free stuff.

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