Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Coffee Caramel Fudge

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For anyone who thinks it’s too cold to eat ice cream in winter, I present to you Exhibit A: the pint of Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Caramel Fudge Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert that my awesome friend Jill got me before I came to visit her in snowy, 29-degree Delaware the week before Christmas. We had some every night I was there. This is one of the many reasons why I love Jill.

I’ve never liked coffee ice cream — until now. Some of Ben & Jerry’s non-dairy ice creams have a weird flavor from the almond milk base (like Caramel Almond Brittle, for example). But in this one, the intensity of the coffee flavor masks any weirdness. It tastes just like regular ice cream. Smooth, creamy, with a hint of caramel and good-quality chocolate chunks. What’s not to like?

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I’ve been periodically reviewing Ben & Jerry’s non-dairy ice creams ever since they hit the market. Here are the ones I’ve tried, listed in order of my preference (click on the links to read my reviews):

I haven’t bought Coconut Seven Layer Bar because I don’t like coconut-flavored ice cream. But if they offer that one at a Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop, I’ll taste a sample and let you know how it is.

Every so often I cruise by the frozen dessert case at the supermarket to see if there’s anything new. Well, I just found out Ben & Jerry’s has two new flavors, Peanut Butter Half Baked and Cinnamon Buns. I don’t care for cinnamon buns, so I’m not going to get that one, but peanut butter cookie dough and fudge brownies? Sign me up!

Of course, I’ll have to hold off until I lose my “holiday weight.” Stay tuned.

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The Stalking Horse Brewery & Freehouse

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If you’re looking for a traditional English pub with heavy, fatty food that will send you to the toilet for a couple of hours, this place is not for you. The Stalking Horse, on Pico Boulevard in West Los Angeles, is the first pub I’ve been to that actually has vegan versions of traditional pub fare! Half the menu is vegan! I’m not a vegan, but because I don’t eat dairy, I appreciate this.

Whether you’re dairy-free, vegan, vegetarian, or just a curious eater, you must try the cottage pie at The Stalking Horse. It’s like a shepherd’s pie (ground beef, carrots and peas topped with mashed potatoes) but this one is vegan — no dairy, no meat. They use that new-fangled “Impossible Burger” vegan stuff, and I have to say, it’s delicious. Food science scored big with this one. This “meat” actually browns, so you get nice little charred flavor bombs. And I really did feel less bogged down after eating it.

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“I can’t believe it’s not meat!” (P.S. The burger in the back is meat.)

My husband and I also tried their weekend brunch. I was pleasantly surprised that their French toast is served with whipped coconut cream, which makes us dairy-free folks very excited. I also have to plug the traditional English breakfast plate. Delicious pork belly, amazing “chips” (fries)… If you’re a meat eater, just get it.

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Crispy French toast with whipped coconut cream.

I’m so happy to find a pub that puts as much care and craft into their food as they do in their drinks. The Stalking Horse makes English food do-able for healthy eaters. That’s a small miracle.

THE STALKING HORSE BREWERY & FREEHOUSE, 10543 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90064

My Go-To Dairy-Free Breakfast Smoothies

My Dairy-Free Breakfast Series wouldn’t be complete without a few of my favorite smoothie recipes. A year ago my husband and I got a NutriBullet blender, and ever since then we’ve been having fresh, homemade, dairy-free smoothies every morning. Trust me, that’s not as hard as it sounds!

Last summer we switched to a Vitamix blender (my dad had one he wasn’t using often, so we’re “borrowing” it from him). Although it takes up more counter space, its larger size allows for more flexibility in the quantity of ingredients. In other words, we don’t end up overfilling it and making a mess.

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A lot of folks just wing it when they make smoothies, throwing in whatever fruits and veggies they have on hand. I do this too sometimes, but I’ve noticed those smoothies tend to all taste the same, no matter what goes in them. Plus, they usually come out an unappetizing shade of brown. So I like to stick to the tried-and-true recipes most of the time.

Here are three of my go-to smoothie recipes — all free of dairy. For each recipe, you simply place all the ingredients into your blender, put the lid on tight, and blend until smooth.

ORANGE CARROT PEACH SMOOTHIE RECIPE

2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 orange, peeled and cut into 4 sections
1 cup frozen peaches
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 cups coconut water

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This one’s a crowd pleaser and good for your eyes!

PICKY EATER SMOOTHIE RECIPE

1 cup spinach
1 cup frozen mango
1/2 banana
1 teaspoon flaxseed meal (optional)
1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond or coconut milk

VITA-BERRY SMOOTHIE RECIPE

1 cup spinach
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
4 fresh or frozen strawberries
1/2 banana
1 1/2 cups coconut water

Ratatouille with Poached Egg

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The fourth installment of my Dairy-Free Breakfast Series is inspired by my favorite dish at a now-defunct café in New York’s Greenwich Village. The dish, named Oeufs Gamins, consisted of a poached egg atop a crispy potato pancake infused with goat cheese and surrounded by roasted ratatouille. This gorgeous concoction was the perfect hangover cure, served by French expat servers who acted like they couldn’t care less about you. So Français!

I’ve recreated this dish without the potato pancake (too much work) and the goat cheese (too much dairy). Although I will always treasure the memory of the starchy, cheesy Oeuf Gamins, the one I make now is healthier and just as tasty. It’s a great way to fill up on vegetables first thing in the morning. Because they’re caramelized, they taste wonderfully sweet. And don’t be afraid of poaching eggs — it’s easy once you get the hang of it.

RATATOUILLE WITH POACHED EGG RECIPE

1 yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch half moons
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
8 ounces eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch slices
8 ounces zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch rounds
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
2 ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch chunks, squeezed and drained
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
splash of white vinegar
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste

To make the ratatouille: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl, toss the onion, bell pepper, eggplant, zucchini, garlic, olive oil, rosemary, and salt until well mixed. Spread the vegetables evenly in a baking pan. (They will shrink as they cook.)

Roast the vegetables for 30 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Stir in the tomatoes and continue to roast for 30 more minutes, again stirring halfway through. When the vegetables are browned and caramelized, remove them from the oven and stir in the basil.

Store the ratatouille in an air-tight container in the fridge. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

To poach an egg: Fill a small pot with about an inch of water, add a splash of white vinegar, and bring it to a boil. Crack the egg into a small cup or ramekin. Turn the heat down to a simmer and gently pour the egg into the water. Let it cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the white is just set. (The yolk should still be runny.)

Meanwhile, heat up a serving of ratatouille in the microwave. When the egg is done, lift it out of the water with a slotted spoon and place it atop the ratatouille. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Rice Congee

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Welcome to the third installment of my Dairy-Free Breakfast Series! This week I’m featuring an old comfort food of mine: rice congee. If you like porridge-y foods, such as oatmeal and other hot cereals, this recipe is for you.

Congee is rice porridge. I enjoy having some meat in my breakfast, and congee is a great savory one-dish meal that satisfies my craving for protein. (Sometimes I have it with a tea-soaked egg, as you can see in the picture above, but that is extra work.)

One of the things I like best about congee is that you can make a pot of it in the rice cooker ahead of time and keep it in the fridge all week. Then in the morning, you just spoon some into a bowl, nuke it, add chopped scallions and you’re done.

RICE CONGEE RECIPE

1 cup rice
2 cups cold water
4 ounces ground pork or chicken
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce
4 shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 scallions, chopped
ground black or white pepper to taste
sesame oil to taste

Rinse the rice a few times. Fill the rice cooker insert with 2 cups cold water (or up to the 1-cup porridge line). Stir in all remaining ingredients except scallions, pepper, and sesame oil. Set the rice cooker to the “porridge” setting, and cook with the lid closed until the rice cooker beeps, indicating that the rice is done.

Stir the congee. When it’s cool, cover and refrigerate it.

In the morning, reheat a bowl of congee in the microwave oven until hot. Sprinkle with scallions, pepper, and sesame oil just before serving. Makes 5 to 6 servings.