Dairy-Free Eloté (Grilled Mexican Corn)

Summer’s here and you know what that means: street fairs. There are few things I love more than food that can be eaten while walking. The late author David Foster Wallace wrote a hilarious essay about the Illinois State Fair, which he describes as a “peripatetic feeding frenzy.” (You can find the essay in his book A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, the title of which does not refer to the state fair, but rather, a luxury cruise. Just read it and thank me later.)

At Southern California street fairs, you will often find corn on the cob, grilled and seasoned in a Mexican fashion. It’s called eloté, and it usually comes smothered in butter, mayo, chili powder, and cotija cheese.

Just one look at all that dairy and my stomach starts to scream in revolt.


When I was looking online for a photo of eloté, I found this one from the LA County Fair, which doesn’t really show eloté (except if you look at the sign on the far left), but does show a ridiculous concoction from Chicken Charlie. Chicken Charlie is the county fair vendor known for deep-frying everything, including Oreo cookies, Lucky Charms, watermelon, even butter. But an ice cream chicken sandwich??? Have they gone too far? I think the answer is a resounding yes.

Eloté is definitely one of the healthier options compared to most street foods. But if you’re lactose-intolerant, even this dish can pose a problem.

That’s why I decided to make my own version of eloté without all that cheese. I also cut the kernels off the corn cobs because I just had some dental work done. This makes my version of eloté harder to eat peripatetically, but easier on the choppers.


I always grill corn cobs in their husks because if you grill them directly over the coals, they tend to get overcooked. An hour before cooking, start soaking the corn cobs in cold water. The pre-soaked husks will steam the corn inside. You’ll end up with juicy kernels that have a nice charred flavor.

The key ingredients in eloté besides corn are butter, chili powder, and lime juice. I like to use real butter (the amount of lactose in it is not enough to bother me), but feel free to use vegan butter. Make sure you use fresh-squeezed lime juice; if it sits for too long, it gets bitter. You can play with the ingredients until you find the balance of spicy and sour that you like.

I guarantee you won’t even miss the cheese!


2 corn cobs, in their husks
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon ancho chile powder
2 teaspoons butter or vegan butter
1 tablespoon lime juice (about half a lime)
sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Soak the corn cobs in cold water, fully immersed, for one hour before grilling. When the coals are ready, remove the corn cobs from the water and shake off the excess. Grill the corn cobs over direct medium heat, turning every 5 minutes. Total cooking time: 20 minutes.

Remove the corn cobs from the grill. When cool enough to handle, peel off the husks and silk. Holding the corn cobs upright, cut the kernels off with a sharp knife and scoop them into a serving bowl.

Add the garlic, chili powder, butter, lime juice, salt, pepper, and cilantro. Mix well. Garnish with more cilantro, if desired. Makes 2 servings.


Avocado Toast: Why All the Fuss?


If you’ve been wondering, “What’s the big deal with this avocado toast thing?” you are not alone. Avocado toast is everywhere these days, and this hot trend, like jumpsuits, can be a bit confounding. What is it, other than mashed-up avocado on a piece of toast?

The short answer is: nothing. Avocado toast is exactly that. And there is no reason why you should pay $8 or more for this simple dish. Especially in Southern California, where avocados are plentiful and relatively cheap, the raw ingredients of avocado toast would probably total no more than $1 a serving.

Is it the labor, you may ask? Is avocado toast hard to master, like a soufflé? I couldn’t imagine that it would be. Just to test my theory, I made avocado toast this morning. Here’s how:

(1) I cut a slice of sourdough bread and popped it in the toaster oven.

(2) I sliced an avocado in two, then scraped its contents into a bowl. Then I mashed it up using my (clean) hand. One avocado will usually yield enough for two slices of toast.

(3) I added a little lemon juice, salt and pepper, and a dash of garlic powder (the garlic powder is optional).

(4) I stirred up the avocado mixture (which is now essentially guacamole), spread it on the toast, and topped it with chopped cilantro. You can also use parsley or chives.

Done. Actually, I also fried an egg to put on top of it, but that’s optional, too. Here’s a photo of my avocado toast with egg.


Really, that’s all there is to it. Don’t get me wrong, avocado toast is tasty, and certainly more nutritious than plain toast or toast with butter and jam. And it’s dairy-free, which is a plus for those of us who are lactose-intolerant. But rest assured, you’re not crazy for thinking this avocado toast trend is much ado about nothing.

Honestly, it probably all started when a restaurant had some leftover guacamole and one of the line cooks put it on a piece of toast and said, “Hm, this is pretty good. I bet we could charge people a lot of money for this.”

The one time I actually ordered avocado toast was at my favorite boba tea shop in downtown L.A., Toastea. I only did it because I was starving and needed some protein along with my tea. At $6.25, it was still overpriced, but it was good.

Avocado toast from Toastea.

Given how basic avocado toast is, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll never have one that is so amazing it changes your life. That said, if you do, I would love to hear about it. Let me know in the comments below!


A Royal Wedding Cream-Free Tea


This Saturday, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are getting married in a royal wedding that we Angelenos are very excited about. Not only is Meghan Markle an American, she is also from Los Angeles.

Many people are planning viewing parties, and what better way to celebrate the royal nuptials than with a traditional English tea? I adore afternoon tea… the girlier and more twee the better. It’s the only circumstance under which I tolerate doilies.

Commonwealth Day Service
Do it for the royals. And by the way, that white outfit is so chic, it’s killing me.

The problem is that a traditional afternoon tea is loaded with dairy. In fact, it’s often called a “cream tea.” There’s the milk you put in your tea, the cream cheese in the finger sandwiches, the clotted cream for the scones, the pastries filled or topped with cream… The list goes on.

Being lactose-intolerant, I’ve had to forego my beloved cream tea. That’s why, on this special occasion, I set out to make a “cream-free tea.” Here’s the menu:


Madras Curry Chicken Sandwiches

Cucumber with Lemon-Mint Butter Sandwiches

Tart Cherry Scone with Clotted Coconut Cream and Boysenberry Preserves

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry

Earl Grey Tea

I should make it clear that I do use butter in my recipes, as the amount of lactose in it doesn’t bother me. But if butter is a problem for you, you can use a vegan alternative such as Earth Balance.

As for the tea itself, you can either drink it straight or use any non-dairy milk you like: almond, coconut, soy, etc. For a richer experience, I recommend using a heavier creamer like Califia Farms Better Half, a mixture of coconut cream and almond milk.

Final note: You don’t have to make everything from scratch. I bought the chocolate-covered strawberry at Gelson’s rather than dipping it myself. For the scones, I used a prepackaged mix called Sticky Fingers and spooned the batter into a Nordic Ware mini scone pan.



It’s okay to take a few shortcuts, especially when you’re making such an elaborate meal. Besides, as Carl Sagan once said, “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, first you must invent the universe.” Too late for that.

Below you’ll find my recipes for the sandwiches and the clotted coconut cream. Enjoy the royal wedding and your dairy-free royal tea!


Chicken salad recipe adapted from Nom Nom Paleo

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 lime, juiced
1/2 pound cooked chicken, shredded
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1 scallion, thinly sliced
2 slices wheat bread

In a small bowl, combine mayo, curry powder, salt and pepper. Add chicken, cilantro, and scallions. Mix well.

Spread an even layer of curry chicken on a slice of bread; top with another slice.

Using a sharp knife, cut off and discard the crusts. Cut the sandwich diagonally into quarters, making 4 triangles. (You’ll have leftover chicken.)



2 tablespoons fresh mint, minced
2 tablespoons butter or vegan butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 english cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
2 slices white bread

In a small bowl combine the mint, butter, and lemon juice. Stir the mixture until well combined.

Spread a thin layer of butter mixture on each bread slice. Top one bread slice with cucumber, distributing the cucumber evenly. (Don’t pile it on too thick or the sandwich will fall apart.) Top the cucumber with the other bread slice.

With a sharp knife, cut off and discard the crusts. Cut the sandwich diagonally into quarters, making 4 triangles.



4 tablespoons butter or vegan butter, softened
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons canned coconut cream or milk

Using an electric mixer, beat together butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until well combined and smooth, about 2 minutes.

Add coconut cream and continue beating until the cream is light and fluffy.

Transfer cream to a small serving dish or ramekin. Serve with scones and preserves. If you’re not using the cream right away, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated for up to 2 days.


Shakshouka (Poached Eggs in Spicy Tomato & Pepper Stew)


Shakshouka is a dish of eggs poached in a stew of tomatoes, bell peppers, and onions, spiced with cumin and coriander. It originated in North Africa, but is also popular in the Middle East. I tried shakshouka for the first time a few months ago while having breakfast at a Mediterranean restaurant in New York. I was instantly hooked — I love breakfast, and I especially love a spicy breakfast.

Best of all, shakshouka contains no lactose. If you’re dairy-free or trying to go dairy-free, you can safely add this recipe to your breakfast repertoire. It’s also vegetarian, and if you eat it without pita bread, it’s Paleo, too.

I adapted this recipe from an old vegetarian cookbook. You can do your own variations, but for the heat I recommend using harissa, a Moroccan chile pepper paste that you can find at Middle Eastern grocery stores or Cost Plus World Market.


Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home

1 red bell pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon harissa (or hot sauce to taste)
2 cups diced tomatoes (canned is fine)
4 eggs
minced fresh parsley (optional)
4 slices pita bread (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Roast the bell pepper for 15 to 20 minutes, or until it starts to soften and collapse. Transfer the bell pepper to a bowl and cover it with a towel, letting the pepper steam for 10 minutes. When it’s cool enough to handle, remove the peel and slice the pepper into thin strips, discarding the seeds.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and sauté the onions for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, coriander, and harissa; cook, stirring, for one minute. Stir in tomatoes, sliced bell pepper, and salt and pepper to taste. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

If serving right away: Make four evenly spaced indentations in the stew and crack one egg into each hollow. Cover the skillet and gently cook for several more minutes until the whites are set and yolks are soft-cooked. Transfer to shallow bowls. Sprinkle with parsley.

If making ahead of time: Let the stew cool, transfer it to an airtight container, and refrigerate until needed. In the morning, heat a portion of the stew in a small pan. Make an indentation in the center, crack an egg into it, cover the pan, and cook until the white is set and the yolk is soft-cooked. Transfer to a shallow bowl. Sprinkle with parsley.

Serve with warm pita bread. Makes 4 servings.

Homemade Dairy-Free Lebanese Rose Milk Tea


In honor of the roses we all want to get on Valentine’s Day this week, I’m making a copycat version of the Lebanese Rose Milk Tea from Labobatory, a boba tea shop that I always visit when I’m in San Gabriel. Mine doesn’t contain boba, but that’s better for me anyway, as those starchy tapioca balls are bad news for my waistline.

I love copycat recipes because every time I make one of these, I think, “I’m saving five dollars!” Not to mention, a long drive out to San Gabriel.


All you need is Zhena’s Gypsy Rose Organic Black Tea (available at Whole Foods or online), rose water, ice, and a non-dairy creamer such as Coffeemate. The rose water is really the key — it’s what gives Labobatory’s rose milk tea that Middle Eastern flavor. You can find it at Persian or Indian grocery stores.

Labobatory uses non-dairy creamer, but you can substitute almond milk or coconut milk instead. You can also add sugar or another sweetener if you wish.


1 cup boiling water
1 tea bag of Zhena’s Gypsy Rose Organic Black Tea
1/2 teaspoon rose water
1 cup ice
non-dairy creamer, to taste

Steep the tea bag in boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove the tea bag, and let the tea cool for 20 to 30 minutes. If you like your tea strong, do this step a few hours before you plan to drink it, then refrigerate it (otherwise the warm tea will melt some of the ice and dilute your drink).

Add rose water to the tea and stir to combine. Fill a glass with the ice. Pour the tea over the ice, and add non-dairy creamer to taste. Stir and enjoy. Makes one serving.

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.


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.


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

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


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


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


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.


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.