Easy Dairy-Free Huevos Rancheros

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I’m a big fan of breakfast. It’s my favorite meal of the day. But breakfast can get boring if you tend to eat the same thing every morning. It can also be daunting if you’re trying to go dairy-free and you’re used to eating things like cereal with cow’s milk or bagels with cream cheese.

So for all of you breakfast eaters who need some dairy-free inspiration, I welcome you to the first post of my Dairy-Free Breakfast Series!

Just to clarify, I don’t consider eggs to be dairy, since my dietary restriction is lactose. I love eggs and they are the staple of my breakfasts. They’re a great source of protein, and if I don’t have protein at the start of my day, I can barely function.

Today I’d like to share a ridiculously easy recipe for huevos rancheros that can be whipped up with stuff I usually have on hand. The photo above shows one I made using leftover homemade black bean chili, but you can use canned beans. I promise you won’t miss the cheese. There are enough strong flavors in this dish to make up for the lack of queso.

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Cholula: Mexican food’s best friend. If you don’t have it, get some.

EASY DAIRY-FREE HUEVOS RANCHEROS RECIPE

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 eggs
1/4 cup refried black beans (canned is fine)
1/4 cup salsa
Cholula or other hot sauce, to taste
2 teaspoons minced cilantro
tortilla chips
guacamole or sliced avocado (optional)

Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Crack the eggs into the pan, cover and cook for approximately 2 minutes, or until the whites cook through.

Meanwhile, heat the refried black beans in the microwave until hot.

Spread the warmed beans on a plate. Top with the fried eggs. While the pan is still hot, warm the salsa, seasoning it with Cholula to taste. Garnish the eggs with the salsa and minced cilantro. Serve with tortilla chips and, if you have it, guacamole or sliced avocado.

Makes one serving.

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Dairy-Free Wedge Salad

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Like many people, I’m not a big fan of iceberg lettuce — or as my favorite YouTube food reviewer Daym Drops calls it, “crunchy water.” Pretty much the only time you’ll catch me eating iceberg lettuce is in a wedge salad, a classic that you find at old-school steakhouses.

A wedge salad traditionally consists of a wedge of iceberg lettuce (hence the name), smothered in crispy bacon, tomatoes, and bleu cheese dressing. Because I’m lactose-intolerant, when I order a wedge salad in a restaurant, I ask for Thousand Island dressing instead of bleu cheese. But I must admit I miss that cheese.

Recently I discovered Follow Your Heart Vegan Bleu Cheese Salad Dressing and knew I had to try it on a wedge salad. It worked beautifully. The recipe is simple, but there’s one part that can be tricky…

The key to a successful wedge salad is crispy bacon. After years of making limp, chewy bacon, I finally rolled up my sleeves and did some research. Here’s the trick: Start with a cold (not preheated) pan and add a little water before cooking.

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Probably should’ve used a bigger pan, but you get the idea.

As the water evaporates, it renders the fat from the bacon, and you end up with leaner, crispy bacon that doesn’t get burnt — unless, of course, you wander away from the stove and forget about it. The water step doesn’t add that much cooking time, and it always results in bacon with that proper “crispity-crunch.” As Daym Drops would say, “This is how bacon is supposed to be.”

DAIRY-FREE WEDGE SALAD RECIPE

4 slices bacon (not thick-cut)
1 small head iceberg lettuce, cut into 4 wedges
1 cup Follow Your Heart Vegan Bleu Cheese Salad Dressing
1 vine-ripened tomato, chopped
1/4 cup chopped red onion (optional)
ground black pepper to taste

Lay the bacon slices in a cold (not preheated) skillet. Add enough cold water to cover the bottom of the pan. Cook over medium-high heat until the water evaporates, leaving melted bacon fat. Turn heat down to medium and continue cooking the bacon, turning frequently, until crispy. Remove bacon from pan and drain on paper towels. When cool enough to handle, chop the bacon into bite-sized pieces.

Place one lettuce wedge on each of four plates. Top with dressing, tomatoes, red onion (if desired), and bacon. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper. Serve with a fork and knife. Makes 4 servings.

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Egg-Lemon Soup (Avgolemono)

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When I see a soup that looks like this, I usually assume it contains milk. But the creamy appearance of this delicious Greek dish actually comes from blended eggs — music to my ears because (1) there’s zero lactose in it and (2) I love eggs. This soup also contains a hefty amount of lemon juice, which gives it a wonderfully tart flavor. I’m a big fan of pairing chicken with lemon.

You can use leftover chicken, such as the scraps from a rotisserie chicken. Or you can cook raw chicken breasts or thighs by poaching them in water. Bring the water to a boil, then immediately turn the heat down to low and simmer for eight to ten minutes. Remove the chicken from the water and shred with two forks.

And by the way, you shouldn’t have to worry about salmonella from the eggs, since the liquid you add to the blender will be very hot. But if you’re really paranoid about raw eggs, this may not be the recipe for you.

For those of you who like to live on the edge, give this one a whirl!

Egg-Lemon Soup (Avgolemono) Recipe

Adapted from Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything

3 pints chicken stock
1/2 cup orzo or other small pasta
1 carrot, peeled and sliced thinly
1 stalk celery, minced
sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
2 eggs
5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
minced fresh parsley to garnish

Place the stock in a large pot and turn heat to medium-high. When it’s just about boiling, turn the heat down to medium so that it bubbles gently.

Stir in the orzo, carrot, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they are all tender, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add the chicken. Turn heat to low.

Place the eggs in a blender and whir for 10 seconds; add the lemon juice and blend briefly. With the motor running, drizzle in about 1 cup of the hot soup. Pour this mixture back into the soup; stir and cook briefly, until the soup is slightly thickened. Do not boil.

Garnish with parsley and serve. Makes 6 servings.

Rose Watermelon Juice

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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.

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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.

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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.

The “Lin Special” Sandwich

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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.

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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.

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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.

Homemade Dairy-Free Chai Tea

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I’ve always loved chai tea, the kind that you get in Indian restaurants, not the kind from Starbucks or the pre-made chai tea that almost every tea brand now sells. At worst, those chai teas taste like candy, and at best, they’re too intensely spicy. Once I asked an Indian friend how to make real chai tea and she gave me a masala mix, but it still didn’t taste like the chai tea I got in restaurants.

Then I went dairy-free and couldn’t drink chai tea at Indian restaurants anymore because they always make it with cow’s milk. After years of deprivation, I became determined to figure out how to make my own chai. I did some research and was able to put together this recipe using just three key spices easily obtained in most grocery stores.

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Cinnamon sticks, star anise, and cardamom pods.

Instead of cow’s milk, I used coconut milk. (I thought the coconut would work better in chai tea than almond milk.) For desserts and coffee, I like to use Kara coconut milk because it’s thick and creamy. But for this tea, I wanted a milk that was thinner, so I used Silk Unsweetened Coconut Milk.

You can brew your chai with just about any unflavored black tea. I used my usual breakfast tea, Zhena’s Gypsy Tea. I’ve tried almost all the organic breakfast teas available at my neighborhood Ralphs, and this one is the most flavorful and affordable.

Keep calm and chai on!

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Dairy-Free Chai Tea Recipe

2 cardamom pods
1 cup water
2 bags black tea
1 whole star anise
1 stick cinnamon
1 cup coconut milk

Crack the cardamom pods by tapping them with a mallet or other heavy object. Put the water, tea, star anise, cinnamon stick, and cardamom pods in a small pot and bring to a boil. Boil for 4 minutes.

Pour the tea through a strainer to remove the solids. Pour the strained tea back into the pot and add the coconut milk (and sugar or other sweetener, if desired). Warm over medium heat, stirring, until hot. Makes 2 servings.

Non-Alcoholic Pineapple Mint Mojito

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Next Sunday is Father’s Day, and to many of us that means one thing: barbecue. This year, consider making a special beverage that everyone can drink, adults and kids alike. It’s dairy-free, non-alcoholic, and super-healthy — that’s right, it contains kale!

As you can see in the photo above, it has a nice frothy head and looks great in a fun glass, like this midcentury highball that makes me think of Palm Springs. One day I had mine in a Star Wars tiki mug. What Star Wars fan wouldn’t want to drink a smoothie from a Jawa?

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Star Wars Geeki Tiki mugs available at ThinkGeek.com
But no matter the style of presentation, you’ll find this drink refreshingly tart and just the right amount of sweet. I adapted this recipe from the NutriBullet app, but you can make it in a regular blender, too.

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Non-Alcoholic Pineapple Mint Mojito Recipe

1 cup kale or spinach
1 cup frozen pineapple
1/2 cup fresh mint
juice of 1 lime
honey or other sweetener to taste
1 1/2 cup chilled coconut water

Add all ingredients to your NutriBullet cup or blender. Blend for 30 seconds or until smooth. Makes 2 servings.