Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy P.B. & Cookies

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My dream has come true! Ben & Jerry’s has come out with a non-dairy ice cream!

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough was my favorite ice cream before I gave up dairy. I’ve been telling anyone who’ll listen that this talented ice cream duo need to make a dairy-free ice cream, pronto. Well, lo and behold, they have made it so. As it says on the carton, “You dared us to go dairyless — & we did!”

So far they’ve released four flavors of non-dairy ice cream, and the one that begged me to take it home was P.B. & Cookies. It’s described as “vanilla with chocolate sandwich cookies & crunchy peanut butter swirls.” Basically, this is cookies ‘n’ cream with a little peanut butter to kick it up a notch.

With all this going on, it’s not really about the almond milk base. But I have to say, the base is fabulous. Creamy, smooth, vanilla-y. Ben & Jerry’s website explains how they developed this base and why it makes the best “blank canvas” for their flavors. I’ve been a big proponent of coconut milk-based ice creams, like Coconut Bliss, but it’s true that most of them taste coconutty, which is not always the desired effect.

As for the “palette” that graces this blank canvas, true to form, Ben & Jerry’s has filled this ice cream with all sorts of deliciousness. The “chocolate sandwich cookies” taste exactly like real Oreos. I’ve had a lot of cookies ‘n’ cream where it’s just pulverized cookie bits. With this one, it’s like they took whole Oreos, cracked them into a few pieces, and stuck them into the ice cream. You even get bite-sized bombs of cookie filling. The “crunchy peanut butter swirls” taste like bits of a Butterfinger bar. If this sounds like gilding the lily, then they’re welcome to gild away — because the result is amazing.

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Just to let you know, this photo was totally staged. The truth is, I ate this stuff right out of the carton while sitting on the couch. Like Ally McBeal. But unlike Ally, I wasn’t depressed and bemoaning the state of my love life… I was filled with joy. Because my favorite ice cream gurus have finally done it: They have mastered the non-dairy ice cream.

Imuraya Coconut Cream Mochi

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The most adorable dessert you’ll ever eat.

Now that it’s officially summer and over ninety degrees in Los Angeles, I’m going to be reviewing a lot of dairy-free summertime treats. Not eating dairy doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself!

From the first time I ever tried mochi ice cream, I was in love. A popular Japanese dessert often served at sushi restaurants, mochi is a rice cake about the size of a golf ball, filled with ice cream. But I never saw one that was dairy-free until now. Mochi + coconut ice cream = genius.

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I found Imuraya Mochi at Ralphs, in strawberry, chocolate, and mango — not exactly “a variety of mind-blasting flavors,” as the box claims. (It apparently also comes in yuzu citrus and salted caramel). I tried the strawberry. It’s delightfully pink, and the dough is thick, soft, and chewy. It’s quite sweet and tastes a tad artificial, but not in a bad way… Sort of like how a grape Jolly Rancher doesn’t taste anything like a real grape. I’m really hoping Imuraya comes out with more flavors, namely green tea and lychee.

I’ve never been to Japan, but after watching the fifth season of Girls on HBO, I am obsessed with the idea of going to a cat café like the one Shoshana worked at, where, in my imagination, they serve these cute little mochi with delicate cups of tea, while an impassive Exotic Shorthair looks on from its windowsill perch.

Milk-Free Mashed Potatoes

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I never thought about how much dairy is in mashed potatoes until one day when I ate some at a diner and felt so gut-bombed that I was curled up in a fetal position for the rest of the evening.

But it’s easy to make your own mashed potatoes without milk. I simply replace the milk with chicken broth. (If you’re a vegetarian, you can use vegetable broth instead.) The texture will be less creamy than traditional mashed potatoes, but it’ll still be smooth and tasty.

Those of you who follow my blog know that I’m a fan of butter, despite being lactose intolerant. This is a recipe that benefits greatly from the flavor of butter. Omit it at your own risk.

Milk-Free Mashed Potatoes Recipe

1 1/2 pounds potatoes (preferably Yukon Gold)
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup chicken broth
salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Peel potatoes and cut into quarters. Place them in a large stock pot and cover by two inches of water. Cover pot and bring water to a boil, cooking for 20 to 25 minutes until you can easily pierce potatoes with a fork. Drain potatoes in a colander.

Return pot to stove. Melt butter over medium-low heat. Add chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Add drained potatoes and mash with a ricer, mixing in butter and broth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir until smooth. Makes 4 side servings.

Zen Chocolate Almond Pudding

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Seems like at least half the foods I loved as a kid are off-limits to me now that I don’t eat dairy. One of those is chocolate pudding. I’m not talking about fancy, gourmet pot de crème. I’m talking about those little plastic pudding cups that my mom used to put in my lunch box. What I loved about that pudding, besides its convenience, was how silky smooth it felt on my tongue. And, well… chocolate.

Shopping at Sprouts recently, I found Zen Chocolate Almond Pudding (Made with Almond Milk), a dairy-free, soy-free version of those little pudding cups. Now, let me just rant for a moment about the overuse of the word “zen” these days. It’s used on everything from massage parlors to energy drinks to medical marijuana dispensaries. Usually, when I see the word “zen” on a product, I avoid it on principle. But I had to try the dairy-free chocolate pudding, no matter what it’s called.

I’m pleased to report that despite its unfortunate packaging (which also features an illustration of a panda), this pudding rocks. It’s nice and chocolatey and, once you stir it a few times with a spoon, smooth as silk. There’s no detectable almond flavor to it. And you can’t beat the convenience.

Just a note to vegans: Before you eat this pudding, you have to eat your meat. ‘Cause, as Pink Floyd taught us, “How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?”

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