Rose Watermelon Juice

IMG_4351

It’s summer, and chances are you’ve sliced open a watermelon for a barbecue and ended up with more leftover watermelon than you know what to do with. Well, here is a simple and delicious answer: watermelon juice. It’s a healthy beverage that is, of course, dairy-free.

My cousin Jane told me that an Indian friend of hers would add rose water to her watermelon juice to give it a little something extra. I tried this and it’s genius! If you’ve been following my blog, you know I love rose-flavored drinks, and this touch of floral works perfectly with the naturally sweet taste of watermelon.

IMG_4345

Obviously, watermelon has a high water content, so you don’t need to add a lot of liquid to the blender. You can use plain water or, if you want some extra nutrition, coconut water. Keep the juice in a pitcher in the fridge and you’ll have a fresh, healthy beverage on hand that tastes way better than any soda.

IMG_4357

So, without further ado, here is the recipe. I guarantee you’ll love it so much that you’ll be hoping for leftover watermelon.

Rose Watermelon Juice Recipe

4 cups seedless watermelon chunks
1 teaspoon rose water
1 cup water or coconut water

Put all the ingredients into a blender. Blend until smooth and frothy. Serve ice cold. Makes 2-4 servings.

Advertisements

Follow Your Heart Vegan Ranch Salad Dressing

IMG_4161

Giving up creamy salad dressings is a hardship for those of us who can’t eat dairy. I’ve written about my perennial search for a good dairy-free Caesar dressing, and as U2 would say, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

But Follow Your Heart Vegan Ranch Dressing is far better than any of the store-bought Caesar dressings I’ve tried. I’ve loved the flavor of ranch since I first tasted it in the mid-80s at a friend’s party where her mother served us crudité with Hidden Valley Ranch dip. Incidentally, ranch dressing was invented in the 1950s by the owners of the Hidden Valley Ranch, a dude ranch in Santa Barbara County. Even though it’s popular in the U.S. and Canada, if you ask for it in any other part of the world, you will probably get a confused look.

IMG_4169

I wouldn’t say that Follow Your Heart tastes exactly like traditional ranch dressing. The most noticeable difference is that it lacks the tanginess of the buttermilk. Ranch usually contains buttermilk, mayonnaise, and a bunch of spices. This vegan version uses “Vegenaise” instead of mayo and nothing but lemon juice concentrate for tartness. The result is a dressing that tastes pretty good, but doesn’t scream “ranch.”

What I like about this dressing is that it’s thick, creamy, and white, not an unappetizing shade of beige. Let’s be honest, salads need to be as attractive as possible or a lot of us won’t bother to eat them.

IMG_4183

Perhaps the real test was when I served it to two people who can and do eat dairy regularly. Both of them liked it and said it didn’t even taste dairy-free. So I’m giving a thumbs-up to Follow Your Heart Vegan Ranch and looking forward to dipping some carrot and celery sticks in it…

But not buffalo wings. Those are supposed to be dipped in bleu cheese dressing (although a lot of West Coast restaurants don’t understand this and insist on ranch instead). And yes, I’ll definitely be trying Follow Your Heart Vegan Bleu Cheese Salad Dressing, hopefully alongside a big plate of very spicy buffalo wings.

SaveSave

The “Lin Special” Sandwich

IMG_4259

In honor of my mother, who passed away last month, I’d like to share one of her recipes, a sandwich she called “The Lin Special.” Unlike most of her culinary masterpieces, this sandwich was a humble creation, thrown together with stuff she had on hand. Some of the greatest sandwiches are deceptively simple (think grilled cheese, BLT, tuna melt). This one contains only five ingredients: white bread, ham, mozzarella cheese, tomato, and onion.

Of course, the mozzarella poses a problem for us lactose-intolerant folks. Which is why I haven’t had a “Lin Special” in years. Fortunately, there are now lactose-free (and dairy-free) cheese alternatives that approximate the mild flavor and stretchy texture of mozzarella.

IMG_4269

The one I chose for this sandwich was Go Veggie Lactose-Free Mozzarella Style Shreds. Because it contains casein (milk protein), it’s not suitable for people with dairy allergies, but works fine if you’re just lactose-intolerant.

The flavor of this “cheese” is nothing to write home about, but then, mozzarella is kind of bland by nature. It’s more of a backdrop than a star player. Go Veggie, like most fake cheeses, looks strange when it melts (see photo below), but has the proper mouth-feel and stretchiness. It would do nicely on a pizza.

IMG_4249

There’s no wrong way to make this sandwich. I prefer it with lots of onion and heavily toasted bread, but you can make it to your liking. If you’re not into white bread, sourdough is a good alternative.

When I used to work at the Letterman show in New York, I would go downstairs to the Hello Deli, run by the now-famous Rupert Jee, and ask him to make this sandwich for me. I kept hoping he’d add the “Lin Special” to the menu, as several of my co-workers had sandwiches named after them. Alas, it never happened.

Well, for those of you who never got a chance to try the “Lin Special,” here is my mom’s recipe. Enjoy. She would want you to.

The “Lin Special” Sandwich Recipe

2 slices white bread
4 slices ham
4 slices tomato
handful of thinly sliced red onion
handful of lactose-free (or dairy-free) shredded mozzarella

Layer the bread slices with ham, tomato, onion, and mozzarella. Place both slices, face up, on the middle rack of a toaster oven. Toast until the “cheese” is melted and the bread is lightly browned. Remove from the toaster oven and put the slices together. Cut the sandwich into triangles, if desired.

Breyer’s Non-Dairy Oreo Cookies & Cream

IMG_9589

Breyer’s has always been one of my favorite ice cream brands, after Haagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s respectively. For a mass-produced ice cream, Breyer’s is a consistent winner. It’s also one of the first brands to come out with a lactose-free ice cream. Several years ago, before I stopped eating dairy completely, I tried their lactose-free vanilla and was impressed.

Well, now they’ve got dairy-free ice creams. And one of those is Non-Dairy Oreo Cookies & Cream, made with almond milk and real Oreo cookies, not some Hydrox shit. I love Oreos and I love vanilla ice cream, so naturally I love cookies ‘n’ cream.

In one of my previous blog posts, I reviewed Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy P.B. & Cookies, which also has an almond-milk based vanilla with Oreo-like cookies. Ben & Jerry’s nailed it. But they also threw in crunchy peanut butter swirls. This creates a wonderfully complex flavor, but sometimes you want something simpler.

IMG_9603

Breyer’s Non-Dairy Oreo Cookies & Cream tastes just like real ice cream, except that its texture is lighter and less dense. I always enjoyed the heavy creaminess of, say, Haagen-Dazs, but when you’re lactose-intolerant, you have to recalibrate your standards.

Breyer’s texture, though fluffy, is perfectly smooth — except for the generous chunks of Oreo cookie, of course. The Oreos aren’t soggy, a feat of food science that amazes me. And the base doesn’t taste like almonds at all. It actually tastes like a giant Oreo filling with bits of cookie mixed in.

If you love Oreos, this is pure heaven.

IMG_4119

Incidentally, these Oreos that I garnished my ice cream with are limited edition Dunkin’ Donuts Mocha Oreos. The filling tastes like Dunkin’ Donuts’ famous coffee. As the Today Show website put it when announcing this new flavor (yes, this is the kind of “news” they report on): “A Dunkin’ Donuts-flavored Oreo: It just makes sense.”

Just to digress a little more, it may be relevant to my readers that Oreo cookies are, in fact, vegan. My friend Jill pointed this out to a vegan friend of hers who replied, “That’s because they don’t have any real food in them.”

Real food or no, Oreos and ice cream are a classic combo that us dairy-free folks can now enjoy, thanks to Breyer’s. Give it a try and let me know what you think.