Earth Balance Organic Whipped Buttery Spread

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If you’ve been following my blog, you know I’m a fan of butter — it’s one of the few dairy products I still eat despite being lactose-intolerant. But lately my stomach hasn’t been happy, and one night after eating a piece of buttered toast, it really wasn’t happy. So I decided to experiment with trying a dairy-free alternative.

I first heard of Earth Balance when I was enjoying a delicious vegan cupcake at Big Sugar Bakeshop and asked what they used in place of butter. Earth Balance is made of vegetable oils, like margarine. But unlike traditional margarine, Earth Balance doesn’t use hydrogenated oils– you know, the “trans fats” that are so bad for you.

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I bought the Organic Whipped Buttery Spread, since I mostly intended to use it on toast and other bread products. Indeed, as a spread, it works beautifully and tastes very much like butter, although a little less full and complex. It’s great for making garlic bread.

The label says you can also use it to fry, sauté, and bake. I haven’t used it to sauté or bake yet, but I have used it for frying eggs. Here’s a photo of a Dairy-Free Egg McMuffin I made. I toasted an English muffin and spread Earth Balance on it. Then I melted a slice of Go Veggie non-dairy cheese on one half. Inside the sandwich is an egg, fried over-easy in Earth Balance, and two breakfast sausage links.

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Dairy-Free Egg McMuffin

This egg turned out pretty well compared to some of the others. The verdict: Butter works way better for frying. When Earth Balance melts in the pan, it becomes thin and acts pretty much like olive oil would. The result is that my eggs would usually stick to the pan and burn around the edges.

So I’m going to continue using Earth Balance for spreading, and stick (no pun intended) with butter for cooking. When I finally get around to making some baked goods with Earth Balance, I’ll post an update!

Tea Bar’s Rose Grapefruit Green Tea

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Over the past three months since my mom’s stroke, she’s been in a transitional care facility in Glendora. She’s going home soon — yay! — which means I won’t be patronizing restaurants in the area much longer. This is no big tragedy, as most of them aren’t great. But there’s one I will definitely go out of my way to hit, and that’s Tea Bar, an easy-to-miss boba tea shop in a strip mall near Azusa Pacific University.

What makes Tea Bar stand out in this college town filled with boba? Well, the first time I walked in, I ordered the rose grapefruit green tea because I love the flavors of rose and red grapefruit. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Tea Bar uses freshly squeezed grapefruit juice.

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The secret to awesomeness: freshly squeezed juice made to order.

This makes all the difference between a run-of-the-mill iced tea and a superb one. Seriously, every time I’m about to visit my mom, I start thinking about getting a rose grapefruit green tea. Does this make me an addict? Probably.

But I try not to feel guilty about this treat because fresh grapefruit juice is filled with vitamin C, and green tea has antioxidants. I always ask for no sugar. (At Tea Bar, like most boba shops, you can specify the sweetness level of any drink.) The grapefruit juice gives this iced tea a tartness that some people may find too intense, but I personally love it. I always say the American diet needs less sweet, more sour.

By the way, the non-dairy milk options aren’t great at Tea Bar; they only have soy milk. But after tasting the rose grapefruit green tea, I was so in love that I really couldn’t care less about trying their milk teas.

You can also add boba to all their drinks, of course. Tea Bar’s boba pearls are made in-house, which makes them good but also means they tend to run out often. No problem — the tea is so fantastic that adding boba to it is like drawing a mustache on the Mona Lisa.

TEA BAR, 954 E. Alosta Ave, Azusa, CA 91702
(Coming soon to Downtown Los Angeles)

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Peet’s Earl Grey Almond Latte

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I don’t know about you, but all this cold, rainy weather makes me want hot beverages. My favorite coffee house is Peet’s Coffee & Tea, and their non-dairy milk selection includes soy and almond. That makes the decision easy for me, since I can’t have soy. Luckily, I love steamed almond milk; it produces a beautiful foam and its subtle nutty flavor is a great complement to coffee and tea.

Usually, my go-to drink at Peet’s is a decaf cappuccino with almond milk. But I recently tried the Earl Grey latte with almond milk and it was fantastic. I’m a big tea drinker, but I’m new to tea lattes. Chai lattes, perhaps the most popular tea lattes, are usually made from a powder rather than brewed from scratch. This is why I never get chai lattes — they don’t taste like real Indian chai.

But Peet’s Earl Grey latte tastes exactly as it should. The distinctive bergamot flavor that characterizes Earl Grey tea can sometimes be overpowering, but in this drink it’s not too strong. And the steamed almond milk makes it special — fancier than a cup of tea that I would make at home.

Of course, you must get it in a ceramic cup. When you order, tell the barista it’s “for here” and make sure they don’t go on auto-pilot and put it in a paper cup. (Some cultures think we’re barbarians for taking our coffee to go. In Paris, the only place you can get coffee to go is Starbucks. Seriously.)

So now I’m officially a fan of the tea latte. It’s nice when you want a drink with a milky foam but something with less bite than coffee. The Earl Grey latte is mellow and downright civilized.

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Another one of Peet’s charms: retro mug with hippie logo.

 

Milk Doesn’t Do a Body Good

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Last Thursday, I read an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times that got me all fired up. The article, titled “Can you call soy milk ‘milk’?” was about how lawmakers are asking the FDA to prohibit non-dairy products from using the word “milk” on their labels. On what grounds, you ask? “Since the 1930s, ‘milk’ has been legally defined as ‘the lacteal secretions of a bovine mammal.'” If that doesn’t make dairy sound unappealing, I don’t know what does.

The article was written by Emily Byrd, the communications manager of the Good Food Institute, a nonprofit that promotes alternatives to animal agriculture. She contends that, despite what the lawmakers claim, consumers are not confused by the word “milk” on such products as soy milk or almond milk. It’s not consumers they’re aiming to protect — it’s the dairy industry.

Now, normally I don’t get all political in my blog, and I’m not an expert in anything, but I do get ticked off when I think about the dairy industry. Specifically, the way it has tried to promote its own gain by brainwashing Americans into thinking that milk is good for them. Remember those “Got Milk?” ads from the eighties featuring famous people with milk mustaches?

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I hated Christie Brinkley for marrying my true love, Billy Joel. But that’s another story.

There were also commercials that showed gawky youngsters being encouraged by their older selves to drink milk so they could grow up to be tall and attractive. These ended with the slogan “Milk. It does a body good.”

I believed that horse shit for years. I used to drink a big glass of milk with every meal, thinking it was going to make me strong so I’d be able to nail the broad jump in gym and get a Presidential Physical Fitness Award signed by Ronald Reagan. Meanwhile, the milk was making my guts churn and my bowels explode on a daily basis.

When I eventually learned what lactose-intolerance was, it all made sense. Our bodies are not designed to digest “the lacteal secretions of a bovine mammal.” Think about it: Why would humans need to drink cow’s milk? That milk was meant for baby cows, not people.

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Just what you crave on a hot day… a refreshing glass of milk!

The good news: Looks like people are finally getting it that cow’s milk is not good for them. According to the LA Times article, “Americans are drinking nearly 40% less dairy milk than they were a few decades ago… In the meantime, the dairy alternatives industry is thriving, expanding sales by 250% over the past five years.”

These statistics make me happy. It means that those of us who have made a lifestyle choice to go dairy-free are becoming less of a minority. Which will hopefully lead to a greater variety and higher quality of alternatives — and perhaps a future when we can open a restaurant menu and not have to scour for the one or two items that don’t contain cheese.

To read the full LA Times article “Can you call soy milk ‘milk’?” click here.

A Dairy-Free New Year

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Let’s all admit that we make New Year’s resolutions. We may claim that we don’t do that anymore because it never works, or we may call our resolutions “intentions” to avoid the stink of inevitable failure. But it’s natural to use the start of a new calendar year as a time to reflect on our goals and values and to commit to living with more integrity. Especially when it comes to food.

My giving up dairy started with a New Year’s resolution three years ago. I knew I was lactose-intolerant for decades, but didn’t think I could ever stop eating dairy — or would ever want to. Then, during the Christmas season of 2013, I found myself indulging in so much cheese, half-and-half, ice cream, and other dairy products that my guts were screaming, “Help!”

I knew I had to make a change.

This New Year’s Day I’m having a similar revelation. Over the past ten months, since I started writing this blog, I’ve been eating more and more “imitation dairy” products. Every time I come across one of these food science miracles, I tell myself I have to try it “for the blog.” Into the cart it goes. The result is that I’ve been eating a lot of weird processed foods, most of which don’t taste very good (e.g., Soyatoo! Rice Whip) and a few of which have left my gastrointestinal system almost as unhappy as it was before I gave up dairy (e.g., Trader Joe’s Vegan Cream Cheese).

So my number one New Year’s resolution is to eat fewer processed foods. Before I put something into my cart — or my mouth — I need to ask, “How many steps away is this food from its natural form?” I suspect this litmus test will profoundly change the way I eat.

What this means for the blog is that I’ll be writing fewer reviews of dairy-free alternatives. (I mean, occasionally I’ll have to make an exception for something like a Dole Whip because it’s just so good. And by the way, I never got a stomach ache from a Dole Whip.) Instead, I’ll be focusing more on dairy-free whole foods and simple substitutions for dairy products in the foods we all know and love.

That’s the goal, anyway. I may just sleep in more and remain fat.