Your Favorites Made Non-Dairy

Your Favorites Made Non-Dairy

I dug up some of your favorites made non-dairy for today's post. If you're like me, you LOVE  cheese and yogurt and….well I won't go on. That's what's kept me from doing the Whole 30. I gave up soda on my 50th birthday. I drink decaff coffee since I was around 40 and found out it affected my blood pressure.

While I do love my wine,  I'd have no problems giving it up for 30 days and sometimes have.  A friend likes to play Parched in March. And I can cook without grains. I do that about 2 to 3 times a week.

My Weakness

But dairy? That's where I stall out. So I knew if I really wanted to try it (purely for research to help you, of course), I'd need to find some substitutes for cheese.  I've already tried soy-based cheeses. The American slices are good on toast…but then I wouldn't be eating toast during the Whole 30. I could still melt it on broccoli and zucchini, though.

No, what I needed were things that I could rotate in that I use almost daily like yogurt and cream cheese.  I love making cucumber subs. And once I found a few of those, I found some other good nut-based cheeses.  Let's go take a look.

Cream Cheese Favorites Made Non-Dairy

You can make a cream cheese substitute out of almonds and cashews. The key is to soak them for at least 8 hours so they're soft. Most recipes call for a food processor. I don't have one, so I use my Vitamix. If you use a blender, make sure it's got enough power to cream the nuts. Also, one cup of raw, unsalted nuts can create enough for a few days.

Store any extra in the refrigerator for up to one week.

One other quick tip is that you drain the soaked nuts before tossing them into your food processor. Otherwise, you end up with nut milk instead of nut cheese.

Sweet Options

You will need to add in some additional items like 3 Tablespoons each of lemon juice and melted coconut oil, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.  Then you can start playing around. You could add in 1/4 cup of your favorite fruit jam or preserves. I'd recommend sugar-free or something you've made yourself.  You could use very ripe fruit as well.

If you like chocolate, add in some cocoa powder and a healthy sweetener.

You could also add in some vanilla paste and adjust the lemon juice down to get a deliciously creamy treat.

Finally, you could add in some chopped walnuts and pecans along with maple syrup.

Savory Options

You want to find a nice mix of things like vinegar, nutritional yeast and miso paste to mimic a savory flavor. There are a lot of recipes out there for using almonds or cashews. This is also a great ricotta substitute.

One recipe I found uses 2 Tablespoons each of yellow miso paste and apple cider vinegar and 1 Tablespoon of nutritional yeast.  Then season with garlic powder and salt. If you use almonds, you may need to add in some unsweetened almond milk for consistency. Another nut cream cheese base recipe uses 1/4 cup of coconut oil in place of the miso paste.

Then you can add in dill or chives or roasted garlic or just about anything you happen to like.

Whipped Cream Favorites Made Non-Dairy

You can make an excellent whipped cream out of full-fat coconut milk that's been refrigerated until it's cold (so, overnight is good). You do that so the coconut cream will separate to the top of the can.  Enjoy the coconut water while you whip the heck out of the coconut cream.

Ice Cream Favorites Made Non-Dairy

I've posted before about using frozen bananas to make a non-dairy ice cream. And you're also getting a good hit of Potassium!

You definitely want to make your own from scratch since a lot of manufacturers put in additives and preservatives and goodness knows what else to mimic the texture of dairy ice cream.

Culinary Nutrition has a simple recipe that they make up, and then put the ice cream in the freezer.  Alton Brown showed how to do this in a Good Eats once. He mixed it up periodically to reduce the ice crystals and have a more consistent product.

  • 3 cups dairy-free milk (coconut, almond, cashew, sesame, etc.)
  • 1/3-1/2 cup natural sweetener (maple syrup, coconut sugar, honey, etc.)
  • Flavouring to taste (vanilla, cinnamon, cacao powder, maca, mint extract, etc.)
  • Add-ins of choice (fruit, cacao nibs, nuts or seeds, chocolate chunks, etc.)

The Kitchn recommends using full-fat coconut milk to get the creamy texture and flavor we crave.

I would use vanilla paste instead of vanilla extract for a more intense flavor.

What's your favorite flavor of ice cream?

Cook Yourself Thin is the resource hub for women 35-55 looking to lose stubborn pounds by cooking and eating the foods you love.

How to Keep Your Knives In Good Shape

How to Keep Your Knives In Good Shape

If you want to prepare quality meals at home, it's important that you know how to keep your knives in good shape. We talked a little in the past about knives. I wanted to go more in depth as to knife types and keeping them sharp and well cared for.

Types of Kitchen Knives

There are quite a few types of knives that you can use in the kitchen. The main two are a paring knife and a chef knife. The chef knife does most of the work when cutting up vegetables and cheese and things. The paring knife is great for cutting into a bell pepper and doing more close work.

I have two sizes chef knife which is great when you have large and small things you're cutting. Also, I use the smaller chef knife on mushrooms, smaller potatoes, and onions and the larger chef knife on large onions, potatoes, and butternut squash.

I have a small serrated knife for tomatoes. I used to go crazy trying to slice them until I invested in the tomato knife. It's so awesome.

And I have a carving knife that came with the set. My husband loves that. When I need to carve meat, I use a large serrated knife that I bought just for that purpose. It has a different blade pattern than the bread knife. The meat knife is the one on the left and has more a scalloped edge. Also the meat knife has the bumps going towards the outside whereas the bread knife has the bumps going on the inside, if that makes sense.

Finally, the kit I bought came with a utility knife. I don't often remember that it's there. I used to use it for cheese, if I remember correctly.

The bottom line is that you need one good chef knife and one good paring knife to do the majority of your prep work. After that, you can get when you find you would use the most. Or you can be like me when I was 22 and moving in to my own place after college and thinking “I need a good knife set.” So I went to Emporium (yes it really was that long ago) and found a good set on sale. And it's lasted me 28 years and counting. I've never had them professionally sharpened because I take good care of them.

This was the large chef knife, small chef knife, carving knife and fork, paring knife, utility knife, tomato knife, meat carving knife and bread knife. Whew. And yet, I really only use 2 of them the most. But it is nice to have the others.

The carving board is a maple one I bought off of Amazon. I had no idea how big it would be! Another tip on how to keep your knives in good shape is to use a good cutting board. Don't cut on tile. So let's move into the other tips.

Taking Care of Your Knives

There are some simple things we can do to keep our knives sharper and happier. First off, don't let it hang around in the bottom of your sink. Things can fall on it or hit the blade knocking it out of alignment. Wash it right away and put it away. It also ensures no rust gets on them. If you have stainless steel, it shouldn't happen…but why take a chance.

Store your knives carefully. You don't want them jumbling around in a drawer. I have a wooden knife block that I got with my knives. If you don't have the space in your kitchen for a block, try and find a cover for the blade to protect it.

When scraping food that you've cut, use a food scraper. If you don't have one, use the back spine of the knife rather than the blade side.

Use the steel to hone your knives regularly. It's actually not how you sharpen. Knives have an edge that can sometimes get folded over one way or the other. The steel helps straighten the edge of the blade.

Keeping Your Knives Sharp

This was a great video on sharpening your kitchen knives. I have the third motorized sharpener. It reminds me…I should go sharpen my knives before Thanksgiving.


And that, in a nutshell, is how to keep your knives in good shape!

Resources

Cook Yourself Thin is the resource hub for women 35-55 looking to lose stubborn pounds by cooking and eating the foods you love.

Cooking Tips For Your On The Go Lifestyle

Cooking Tips For Your On The Go Lifestyle

I got a request for some good cooking tips for busy people. I hear you. Some days, I'd rather call Door Dash, but I know I'd regret it.  Another problem is when I get into cooking ruts. Has that ever happened to you?

Your kitchen may seem boring sometimes. But a few new cooking tips can change that. Your kitchen will transform into a place that you like to be, and you'll be able to make delicious meals the whole family will love. The next few parts of this article will inspire you with a few tips that revolve around cooking.

Plan And Prep

You should do the prep work for your meals in advance. You'll be glad you have your prep work done when it's time to cook. When you're ready to begin cooking and have set your deadline to finish, you can get really stressed. Do the prep work as early as you can to avoid stress later.

And do what I do. Buy prechopped garlic and onion. I promise it will taste just as good.

Also, prepare extra when you're in a good mood. Your future self will thank you. Some days are just easier than others. So if you have one of THOSE days, it's nice to come home and have food on hand to throw together something that will make you feel all warm inside.

Freeze the Meat

In order to make it easier to slice meat into thin strips, you should first marginally freeze the meat. If you are making Asian dishes, such as Thai or Chinese food, this is a great idea. When meats are partially frozen, the slicing is neater and the meat's fibers don't tear and stretch as easily. Allow the meat strips to completely thaw before you throw them in the cooking pan, so you can be sure that the strips all cook evenly.

Better Veggie Cooking

When you cook vegetables for a long time, like boiling them, a lot of essential nutrients will be cooked away. To get the greatest health benefit from vegetables, cook them quickly with methods like steaming or sauteing, or serve them raw.

Protect Your Apples

Apples are currently in season. It's fun to use them for cooking with pork or chicken.  Ok, and for pies and crumbles. But if the fruit is incorrectly stored, it will spoil very quickly. You can keep apples fresh by storing them in a cool basement or refrigerator as warm or dry air makes them rot. Make sure you check them periodically, however, because even one spoiled apple can cause the others in the bag to rot very rapidly.

Protect The Stuff In Your Cabinets

It is important to keep your items fresh, so always store your perishable items, sugars, flours, etc, in sealed, airtight bins. Bugs can creep into your food, and most food items will become stale if exposed to the open air. These are just a couple of solid reasons that you need solid containment. Airtight containers are your best friends in the kitchen. The containers can be bought anywhere and can be an invaluable investment.

 

And don't forget to check out my free Primal Living offer. It may be a fun change that gets you excited about cooking again.

Cook Yourself Thin is the resource hub for women 35-55 looking to lose stubborn pounds by cooking and eating the foods you love.​​​​​​​

More Paleo Tricks for Your Favorite Foods

More Paleo Tricks for Your Favorite Foods

Today let's look at some more Paleo tricks for your favorite foods. If you missed Part 1, you can find Paleo Tricks for Your Favorite Foods here. I'm going to skip cauliflower since I've already done a few posts about substituting cauliflower into your recipes. I'm also going to skip spiralizing since I talk about that here.

So let's dig in.

Mushrooms

If you're not sure about using lettuce wraps for your hamburgers, feel free to substitute Portobello mushrooms. They're large and meaty. And they hold everything together very well.

Stuffed mushrooms are also a wonderful appetizer or small plates dish. You can put together a wide variety of flavor profiles like lamb, mint, and feta or sausage with spinach. Here's a great video for spinach stuffed mushrooms.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are another great way to serve things hot or cold. You could make a tuna, shrimp or crab salad and serve them in a hollowed out tomato.

Or you could try this Paleo lamb in a tomato recipe.

Cook Yourself Thin is the resource hub for women 35-55 looking to lose stubborn pounds by cooking and eating the foods you love.​​​​​​​

Personal Bean Dip Cups

Personal Bean Dip Cups

I just saw this fantastic video for making personal bean dip cups. It's a terrific way to enforce portion control if you are left after a party wondering just how many tablespoons of salsa you really ate.

You could add in ground beef if you wanted more protein. And you can dip vegetables instead of chips. Imagine never having to worry about someone else double dipping again.

Other Ideas for Personal Snack Cups

These could be great with other flavors as well. You could make a hummus cup with tzatziki, feta, cucumber, and tomato.  You could also substitute in lamb crumbles.

And if you wanted to be crazy, you could use a zip top bag as a piping bag and put in onion dip, guac and hummus so you could get a small taste of your favorite dips.

 

Cook Yourself Thin is the resource hub for women 35-55 looking to lose stubborn pounds by cooking and eating the foods you love.​​​​​​​

Basic Kitchen Equipment

Basic Kitchen Equipment

cooking equipment

When you're first starting to put together a kitchen, chances are you'll inherit things from friends and family. Another good way when you have little money is to check out thrift stores. That way you can figure out how you like to cook. You'll be amazed at how many cooking methods there are.

Plus, you can make better quality meals for a lot less, and your health and bank account will improve. For most restaurant dishes, there's a recipe out there online on how to recreate it.

Once you learn to love to cook, then you can start saving up to buy better equipment. I thought I'd list what I can't live without and why.

Instant Pot

I used to use slow cookers, and I had separate pressure cookers. Then at some point, I purchased an electric multi-function digital cooker from QVC. It was fun to make chicken fricassee and soups. But it was missing a good browning function.  So when a friend told me about the Instant Pot, I got one when it went on sale around the holidays.

I love that you can adjust the saute setting from low to medium to high. That allows me to brown meat and gently saute vegetables without burning them. I love the stainless steel insert so that the browned meat can caramelize and leave the good bits on the bottom. Then I use some wine or broth and deglaze. It makes for a much tastier sauce.

I've learned how to steam corn on the cob as well as steam to reheat leftovers. I still don't have a microwave.

Hamilton Beach Food Processor

I needed an inexpensive food processor. I wanted a gold standard Cuisinart but was honestly nervous about finding one used. You never know how people treat their machines and I didn't want the motor to burn out too soon.  I was tempted by the food processor attachment for the Kitchen Aid, but there were a few reviews that made me pause. I may still get it because then I only have the Kitchen Aid on my counter, but I digress.

Hamilton Beach is a good brand. Their small kitchen appliances do last and work well. I use the food processor to quickly prep things like veggies for a soup. If I want a mire poix, I use the frozen stuff in the bag.  It saves you a lot of time and hassle.

Steel Knife Set

When I first moved out, I spent money on a good knife set, and it's lasted me over 25 years. I do need to get the big chef knife professionally sharpened since I can't get it to keep a good blade these days. But the bottom line is you need a sharp knife that slices easily through what you're cutting. You never want to have to saw back and forth.

Granted there will be times like with a butternut squash where it gets a bit stuck. You should watch this Craftsy Class on Complete Knife Skills with Brendan McDermott to see how to handle it.

Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer

I was given my Kitchen Aid stand mixer in my late 20s. I used it on and off but never really figured it out until a few months ago. Now I can't imagine life without it. I really am at the point where I'm whipping things up and zipping things out. I love all the accessories that you can attach to it. I will buy some accessories used. I got the pasta maker used.

The zoodle attachment is super easy to use. I'm still up in the air about the vegetable sheet attachment. And I'm saving up to get the pasta extruder next.

Saute Pans

It's tough. You want a pan that can get a good sear but you also want nonstick because who enjoys scrubbing the pans? That's a big NOT me. I discovered Scan Pans about two years ago and love them. I can get a steak seared off and then toss it into the oven to finish cooking using a Scan Pan.

I can take a frozen chicken breast and pop it into a Scan Pan with some broth and veggies and braise it on the stove for about twenty minutes, and dinner is done. (Covered, obviously)

I have a small 8″ and a larger 10″ both with lids. The 10″ really is big enough for when I have to cook most things. You'll need to make adjustments based upon how many people you're cooking for.

Wok

Stir fries are a great way to save money. You don't need a lot of meat to make a healthy and filling meal. So get your wok!

I also love it for when I have a lot of leafy greens. Two pounds will easily fit in the wok and it cookes down evenly.

Cook Yourself Thin is the resource hub for women 35-55 looking to lose stubborn pounds by cooking and eating the foods you love.

Greek Salad Nachos

Greek Salad Nachos

Give Greek salad nachos a try for when you're watching football. They're healthier than regular nachos, and it's a refreshingly different choice.

See how easy they are to make:

 

The recipe calls for chicken. But you could add in some cooked ground lamb if you want to add in more protein.

These come together quite quickly if you do use the rotisserie chicken. And let's face it. You'd rather be hanging out on the couch enjoying the game, right?

Sauces Add Flavor Instead of Fat

Sauces Add Flavor Instead of Fat

Sauces can be a great way to add flavor instead of fat when finishing a plate of delicious food. It can add that extra delicious mouth feel that improves your feeling of satisfaction.

I love a bit of Bearnaise or Horseradish with my steaks. (I add in unsweetened whipped cream too my horseradish sauce so it's lighter)  I don't need a lot and it makes me happy.

Making Bearnaise

I usually buy Knorr Bearnaise sauce mix in a packet and make that. But since I'm accountable to you all and touting cooking more from scratch, I made it on my own the other day. Disaster doesn't quite describe it. I made a few mistakes.

I was making it with my stick blender and I couldn't find the beaker. So I was using an old Tupperware container that fell over and spilled out 2/3 of the sauce.  Then I knocked it over again and spilled out 1/2 of what was left.  However, the final product was super delicious. But I'm still trying to clean up egg on my stovetop.

Chimichurri and Variations

My latest find is Chimichurri sauce. It adds an amazing herb flavor to the beef that's refreshing. Just one note…this is not a classic Argentinian Chimichurri sauce. I liked this one because it was more herbs and less oil, and I liked the flavor combinations with adding in lime juice and cilantro.  Remember, if you are allergic to cilantro (ptoi! soap!), add in other herbs.

And watch how easy it is to make when the meat is resting.

This is also great on fish and chicken.

What are your favorite sauces? Leave me a comment and let's look at how to either lighten them up or make them more flavorful so you can enjoy less.

Cook Yourself Thin is the resource hub for women 35-55 looking to lose stubborn pounds by cooking and eating the foods you love.​​​​​​​

Let’s Scream for Nice Cream

Let’s Scream for Nice Cream

Nice cream is a healthier ice cream made from bananas instead of cream. And let's face it. Some days we need something cold and creamy to eat.

Watch this video on an easy way to make Neapolitan ice cream:

And you can see the full recipe at the Food Network.

My Only Concern

Bananas are healthy. They're full of potassium which helps your body regulate blood sugar as well as bloat. It helps your body absorb calcium.

But it is pretty sweet. A few scoops is like eating a few bananas. So if you try this, keep it simple with the servings.

Crazy Flavors

Ok, lecture's over.  Now let's look at all the flavor combos you could do.  For the most part, if you make it with cream, you can make it with bananas.

Here's some other ideas:

  • Blueberries
  • Chocolate mint
  • Pina colada
  • Coconut
  • Coconut Lime
  • Chocolate chip (hey, why not put in some of those mini-chips)
  • Orange
  • Cinnamon
  • Coffee
  • Blackberry
  • Cherry

You can use avocado to increase the creamy factor without impacting the flavor. And it's OK to use frozen fruit for your nice cream.

Other Paleo Frozen Treats

There are ways other than bananas to make frozen treats.

You could make your own Fudgecicle (wait, can I use that without the TM?)

I'm also very fond of Orange Creamcicles.

What about you? What's your favorite?

Baking In the Slow Cooker

Baking In the Slow Cooker

I have no doubt that most of you have a slow cooker hiding in your home somewhere. Maybe it was a gift. Maybe you bought it awhile ago thinking it would help you.

I'm here to tell you it can help you. You just need to know what it's good for. Did you know you could bake a cake or bread in one?  It can be a great way to make cornbread or biscuits when it's hot and humid.

Watch this video on how to make sourdough peasant bread. (some comments felt it wasn't “real” sourdough)

You still have to knead and let rest like any yeast breads. It takes 2-2 1/2 hours in the slow cooker using high heat. They recommend putting it under the broiler for 2-3 minutes to toast it up. But honestly, if I'm cooking to keep the kitchen cool, I'd rather just pop one slice in the toaster.

No Knead Bread

If you don't want to knead, here's a video from Garden Fork

It reduces what you have to do with kneading. You will have to let the dough rise.

Alternate Grains and Gluten Free

My friend made a grain-free “sourdough” bread from Urban Poser that turned out great.

Bread Experience discusses what grains are better to substitute in for wheat in this great article. They also discuss which grains are better for what type of baking. For example buckwheat is high protein and will produce a tender baked product. But it can be bitter.

Cakes and Quick Breads

You can also make some great cornbread in the slow cooker. No kneading and no heating up the kitchen.

And chocolate cake, pineapple upside down cake, and lava cake.

But wait, Lara, cake? Well, you can make it lighter with less sugar. And you can use alternative ingredients like applesauce instead of oil. Sure, you probably aren't going to eat it every day. Even if you do, you just cut back in other areas.

I don't snack because I like 2-3 glasses of wine at night. It's all about knowing who you are and what you like and working with it so you don't feel deprived.