The Chairman’s Coconut Rice Pudding

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Hip decor. Mediocre food.

If you happen to be in the Arts District of downtown L.A., you might be tempted to try The Chairman, an Asian fusion restaurant specializing in bao (steamed buns filled with meat). And if you’re lactose-intolerant, you might get excited about their dairy-free rice pudding.

Don’t.

First off, the bao is highly overrated. Almost every meat filling on the menu is too sweet, dry and bland. But the dessert was the biggest disappointment because it’s hard to find dairy-free rice pudding and this one looked so delicious. I mean, look at this beauty!

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It’s made with coconut milk instead of dairy. I’ve eaten and made quite a few desserts that contain coconut milk, and many are great — for instance, the hot chocolate I made last Christmas that converted even my coconut-milk-hating husband.

But what I learned from The Chairman’s rice pudding is that dairy-free desserts must have a strong flavor (like chocolate) to mask the flavor of the coconut milk. This pudding tastes overwhelmingly of coconut. Maybe some people enjoy that. I’m not a fan. I want my rice pudding to taste like vanilla and cinnamon.

I have since tried making my own rice pudding using almond milk, with better results. However, almond milk isn’t as thick as dairy or coconut milk, so the pudding comes out on the thin side. And besides, most of us are too busy to make our own rice pudding; if we’re taking the time to cook, we’re making an actual meal.

So it would be nice to find an off-the-shelf dairy-free rice pudding that tastes as good as Kozy Shack. Unfortunately, you won’t find it at The Chairman.

THE CHAIRMAN, 1200 East 5th St., Los Angeles, CA 90013

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Almond Dream Non-Dairy Yogurt

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So bad, even Godzilla won’t touch it.

I’ve already written one blog post about a terrible non-dairy yogurt, So Delicious, and I don’t want to repeat myself… but I feel it’s my duty to warn people about another terrible non-dairy yogurt, Almond Dream. This one is made from almonds (duh). I’m usually in favor of almond milk — for instance, I love almond milk lattes and cappuccinos. But this yogurt is godawful.

I don’t understand why it’s so hard to make a non-dairy yogurt that tastes decent. Can anyone explain this to me?

I got this yogurt because my husband and I recently purchased a NutriBullet blender and we’ve been making awesome green drinks and smoothies with it. Because the NutriBullet is so powerful, it can turn frozen chunks of mango into a sippable beverage in seconds, which our old, traditional blender couldn’t do. I found a NutriBullet recipe for mango lassi and wanted to try it using non-dairy yogurt.

But when I opened this yogurt and tasted it, I was so repulsed that I didn’t even make the lassi. Why waste good mango?

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Next to a white napkin, note its unappealing beige color.

This yogurt tastes nothing like yogurt; it doesn’t even have the sourness of the So Delicious coconut-based yogurt. Nor does it have the nutty flavor of almond milk. It just tastes… unnatural. There’s really nothing good about it.

I’m starting to think I may never be able to drink a mango lassi again.

Of course, that’s what I said about ice cream and look what happened. So maybe there is hope… if Ben & Jerry’s starts making non-dairy yogurt.

Kreation Cacao Pudding

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Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and for many people, that means one thing: chocolate. If you don’t eat dairy, this can be tricky. Luckily, these days there are dairy-free options that are delicious, decadent, and even healthy.

In the summer of 2015, Kreation Organic Juicery opened on West Third Street in Los Angeles, a few blocks east of the Beverly Center. Walking by during its grand opening party, I was intrigued by the open-air layout and grassy decor, but let’s be honest, mostly by the live sitar music and couples yoga demonstration in the middle of the dining area. Pretentious or awesome? I couldn’t decide.

It wasn’t until just a couple of weeks ago that I actually tried any of Kreation’s creations. They specialize in cold-pressed juices and smoothies, but they also make desserts, which they’ve given the cute category name “Saints & Sinners.” The saints are the healthy ones with no dairy or refined sugar. The sinners… well, let’s just say they probably taste great.

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I went right for the Cacao Pudding, one of the saints. What makes it different from other dairy-free puddings? It doesn’t contain any milk substitutes. The ingredient list is short and a little surprising: dark chocolate, avocado, orange juice, cacao powder, cinnamon, vanilla, maple syrup, Himalayan salt, cacao nibs.

Avocado? Orange juice? Really?

But I love how natural everything is, and the result is excellent. You’d never know there’s avocado in it, but I assume that’s what gives the pudding its thick, creamy texture. Genius. The sweetness comes from the orange juice and maple syrup. I have to say it’s a little too sweet for my taste, but I’m willing to forgive that because it’s otherwise really good. This pudding is so rich, it took me almost a week to finish it; after a few spoonfuls I would be satisfied. That is the sign of a fabulous dessert.

So, if you and your sweetie want to indulge in something chocolatey and guilt-free this Valentine’s Day, swing by Kreation and pick one of these up. And then maybe do some couples yoga in front of the other diners.

Dairy-Free Scrambled Eggs

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I always thought you needed milk to make fluffy scrambled eggs. In fact, after I went dairy-free, I pretty much stopped making scrambled eggs because every time I did it without adding milk, they came out tough and heavy.

Well, here’s a secret for you: You don’t need milk to make great scrambled eggs. You just need the right technique. Here are some tips.

Beat It

Crack your eggs into a small bowl or a measuring cup and beat them vigorously with a fork. Really put some speed into it and try to whip as much air into the eggs as possible. This will break up the proteins which cause the eggs to be tough and stringy.

Add Salt Before Cooking

I used to think it didn’t matter whether you added salt before cooking or after. But it does. The salt, like the vigorous beating, helps break down the proteins. So add it early and don’t be afraid to let the beaten eggs sit for a few minutes before you cook them.

Use a Nonstick Pan

A few years ago I got paranoid about nonstick pans leaching toxic chemicals into my food. So I switched to stainless steel pans. Which are great — except when making scrambled eggs. No matter how much you lubricate the pan, once you start scrambling those eggs, they’ll stick like glue. You’ll lose half your eggs to the bottom of the pan, and you’ll spend half your morning scrubbing that pan. No fun.

Do yourself a favor and use a nonstick pan for scrambling eggs. I use a brand called Scanpan that’s supposed to be eco-friendly and nontoxic. Just make sure you don’t use metal utensils on it or you might scratch the coating. I find that a rubber spatula works best.

Never Use High Heat

Unlike fried eggs, scrambled eggs should never be cooked over high heat. Start warming your pan over medium heat. Once it’s hot, lube the pan. Butter gives the best flavor, but if you’re lactose-intolerant or vegan, you can use a butter substitute like Earth Balance. Don’t use olive oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, or coconut oil. All of those will impart a flavor that just isn’t right.

Keep ‘Em Moving

Once the butter is melted, tilt the pan to make sure it coats the bottom. Give your eggs another good whipping and then pour them into the pan. Immediately turn the heat down to low. Start scrambling the eggs with a spatula and don’t stop. Seriously, you can’t leave those eggs alone for a second or they’ll end up clumpy.

The eggs should be done almost instantly. When they’re mostly solid but still look a little wet, take the pan off the heat and scoop the eggs onto your plate — they’ll continue cooking on their own. Trust me, there’s nothing that can ruin breakfast like dry scrambled eggs.

Eat While Hot

This is probably the hardest part: timing your breakfast so that as soon as your eggs are done, you can sit down and enjoy them. Once they get cold, they’ll be far less appealing. So fix your coffee, make the bacon, toast your pastries, blend your smoothie, get your fork and napkin set up — then scramble your eggs. Do not attempt to multi-task while scrambling eggs. It’s a lightning-fast procedure that requires your full attention.

But when you give it that attention, you will be rewarded with fluffy, moist, beautiful scrambled eggs that contain no milk whatsoever.