Dairy-Free Skillet Taco Pie


As promised, I’m sharing my recipe for this super-easy weeknight dinner. Dairy-Free Skillet Taco Pie is like a deconstructed crispy taco — and less messy to eat. Contrary to what the name suggests, there’s no crust in it. It’s a nod to Frito Pie, a popular Southwestern dish consisting of chili, cheese, and corn chips.

I adapted this recipe from an issue of Better Homes & Gardens. One of the changes I made was to substitute Daiya dairy-free pepperjack for regular cheese. The Daiya melts easily when mixed into the meat, and you can barely tell it’s not real cheese.


Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens

1 pound ground beef or turkey
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
8 ounces tomato sauce
1/2 cup salsa
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup Daiya pepperjack style shreds
1/4 cup sliced green onion
2 cups shredded lettuce
1 cup chopped tomatoes
2 handfuls tortilla chips, broken

In a large skillet, cook meat and jalapeño pepper over medium-high heat until meat is browned.

Stir in beans, tomato sauce, salsa, chili powder, and cumin. Bring to boiling; reduce heat to medium. Simmer, covered, about 5 minutes or until slightly thickened.

Stir in the “cheese” and cook until it melts.

Spoon meat mixture into 4 wide bowls. Top each bowl with green onions, lettuce, tomatoes, and tortilla chips. If desired, serve with additional salsa and hot sauce.


Go Veggie Vegan Cream Cheese


In my perpetual search for the perfect dairy-free (and soy-free) cream cheese, I picked up a tub of Go Veggie Vegan Cream Cheese Alternative. I liked Go Veggie’s American cheese slices, so I thought their cream cheese might be decent, and its main ingredient is coconut, which I have no trouble digesting.

I spread it on a freshly toasted everything bagel from Bagel Factory, a bagel shop on National and Sepulveda that makes a pretty convincing approximation of a New York bagel.


The texture of Go Veggie’s cream cheese is quite good: smooth and dense, as a cream cheese should be. The taste is unoffensive: not too sour like Miyoko’s, not reminiscent of bleu cheese like Daiya’s. I was halfway through my dairy-free bagel and the Calendar section of the Sunday paper when I thought, This may be the One.

Then I reached over to my husband’s plate and took a bite of his bagel, spread with actual cream cheese, the classic Philadelphia stuff with onions and chives. And my dreams were shattered. My vegan cream cheese tasted nothing like the real thing. In comparison, it was bland, lacking that essential tanginess. Eating my Go Veggie was like the first fifteen minutes of The Wizard of Oz that’s in black-and-white, and tasting his Philadelphia cream cheese was like when Dorothy steps into Oz and everything is in Technicolor.


For me, it’s not a worthwhile tradeoff to eat vegan cream cheese when its flavor is so inferior to the real thing. I would rather forego bagels altogether.

Here’s a recap of the dairy-free cream cheeses I’ve reviewed so far. I’m listing them in order of good to bad. Technically the first one is not dairy-free, only lactose-free, but if you’re just lactose-intolerant this is your best bet.

  1. Green Valley Organics Lactose-Free
  2. Kite Hill Vegan
  3. Trader Joe’s Vegan (contains soy)
  4. Miyoko’s Vegan
  5. Daiya Vegan

If there’s a dairy-free cream cheese you love, please let me know in the comments!

Vegan Almond Cookies


Last weekend our family celebrated the Lunar New Year with a Chinese feast. My contribution to most family gatherings is a homemade dessert, and this year I made a batch of almond cookies, adapted from a recipe in The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook.

My family loved these cookies. They’re nutty, light, and not too sweet. So much better than the stale, mass-produced almond cookies you sometimes get at Chinese restaurants — and if you use a vegan butter like Earth Balance, they’re totally dairy-free. No eggs, no milk, no animal products whatsoever.

Tip: Rather than buying ground almonds, start with whole raw almonds and grind them in a mini food processor. They’ll taste fresher.


Adapted from The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook

1 cup vegan butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup finely ground almonds
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
powdered sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.

In a large bowl, cream the vegan butter and the sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla extract, the almond extract, and the ground almonds; mix until all the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Slowly mix in the flour.

Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and place onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving a few inches between for expansion. Gently flatten the balls with your palm. Bake 12 to 15 minutes until lightly browned.

Cool the cookies on the sheet for 1 minute, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. When cooled, sprinkle with powdered sugar. Makes about 4 dozen cookies.


Daiya “Cutting Board Collection” Dairy-Free Cheeze Shreds


I recently posted my recipe for Dairy-Free Chicken Curry Pizza, which uses Daiya Mozzarella Cutting Board Shreds. Having liked the mozzarella, I decided to try another shredded “cheeze” from Daiya’s Cutting Board Collection: the Pepperjack Cutting Board Shreds.

Success! This dairy-free cheese melts beautifully and doesn’t have a weird aftertaste. It works perfectly in Mexican-inspired dishes like Skillet Taco Pie, a deconstructed crispy taco that is one of my go-to weeknight recipes because it’s quick and easy. (Stay tuned… I’ll post that recipe soon.)

Skillet Taco Pie with Daiya Pepperjack mixed into the meat.

This dairy-free pepperjack is also great in omelets and scrambled eggs. It has a nice stretchy texture and just a hint of sharpness and spiciness that gives the eggs some pizazz. Add some salsa and you’re good to go.


Getting the pepperjack this weekend was perfect timing because the Super Bowl happened yesterday… and we all know that the Super Bowl is just an excuse to eat your weight in guacamole. I used the Daiya pepperjack to make Kalua Pig Quesadillas.

If you’ve never had Kalua pig, it’s like carnitas but moister. And it’s incredibly easy to make: You simply rub a pork shoulder with minced garlic and Hawaiian Alaea sea salt and cook it on low for nine hours in a Crock-Pot lined with three strips of raw bacon. When it’s done, shred the meat, and you’ve got the basis for all kinds of pork-centric entrees.

Now, I’ve actually eaten quesadillas without cheese — if the meat is flavorful enough, it can be done — but I have to admit that quesadillas without cheese are a little sad, not to mention structurally unsound because there’s nothing to hold them together. The Daiya pepperjack was the answer to my quesadilla woes.

Forgot to include the giant mound of guacamole in this photo.

Keep in mind that this stuff isn’t good for snacking straight out of the bag. When I tried that, the texture made it obvious that it wasn’t real cheese. You must melt it. The application of heat is the key to its success.

My love-hate relationship with Daiya products is on a upswing with this Cutting Board Collection. If they can get these vegan cheese shreds right, maybe there’s hope for their vegan cream cheese.