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.

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Pistachio Snowballs

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I’m taking a break from my Dairy-Free Breakfast Series to honor the Christmas tradition of sharing cookie recipes. I clipped this recipe from the Los Angeles Times a year ago and was excited to finally try it out yesterday. These cookies aren’t dairy-free — they contain butter — but there’s not enough lactose in one or two to upset my stomach.

I love these cookies because they’re slightly exotic and not too sweet… and I’m obsessed with spherical food. (I find rolling food into balls oddly therapeutic.) They taste a lot like shortbread, but the hint of rosewater and cardamom give them a Middle Eastern kick.

If you’re not a fan of pistachios, you’ll want to pass this one up. Those little green nuts make up much of the dough.

PISTACHIO SNOWBALLS RECIPE
Adapted from a recipe by Beth Corman Lee

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/4 cup sifted powdered sugar, plus more for coating
1 teaspoon rosewater
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup sifted flour
1/2 cup finely chopped toasted pistachio nuts

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together the butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the rosewater, cardamom, and salt. Slowly beat in the flour until fully incorporated. Beat or stir in the nuts.

Roll the dough into a ball and wrap tightly with plastic. Refrigerate the dough until chilled, at least one hour.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Break off and form the dough into one-inch balls. Place the cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet so they’re not touching each other. Bake until set but not browned, about 8 to 12 minutes.

Transfer the cookies to a wire rack. After they’re cool enough to handle but still warm, roll them in powdered sugar to coat. Return them to the wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 18 cookies.

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The Slut (Coddled Egg & Mashed Potato)

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“The Slut” from Eggslut in Venice, CA.

Welcome to Week 2 of my Dairy-Free Breakfast Series! This week I’m going to tell you how to make “The Slut,” the signature dish at L.A.’s popular breakfast joint, Eggslut. It’s a coddled egg over super-smooth mashed potatoes, poached in a little glass jar and topped with minced chives and a generous sprinkling of coarse sea salt. It’s served with toasted baguette slices drizzled with olive oil. Yeah, it’s as good as it sounds.

The best part is it’s easy (and much cheaper) to make at home, especially if you have leftover mashed potatoes lying around. All you need is a small glass jar with a lid and a large pot full of water.

Here’s how my homemade version turned out.

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I didn’t have any bread, so I ate it with a side of bacon.

For the best results, use really smooth mashed potatoes. You can see my recipe for Milk-Free Mashed Potatoes here. Also, keep an eye on your egg. Some people like their eggs more well-done than others. The rate at which your egg cooks can vary a lot depending on several factors.

Have a slutty morning!

CODDLED EGG & MASHED POTATO RECIPE

1/2 cup mashed potatoes
1 egg
minced chives, to garnish
coarse sea salt, to taste
3 slices toasted baguette
olive oil

Fill a large pot with water, making sure there’s enough to cover the glass jar you’re using. Bring the water to a boil on the stove.

If you’re starting with cold mashed potatoes, heat them up first. Place the warm mashed potatoes at the bottom of a small glass jar (a jelly jar works great). Crack the egg on top of the mashed potatoes. Screw the lid onto the jar.

Turn the heat down to medium-low so that the water is simmering gently. Using tongs, carefully lower the lidded jar into the water. Cover the pot and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the egg white is no longer clear but the egg is still jiggly.

Remove the jar from the water. Wearing heat-proof gloves, carefully unscrew the lid. Garnish with chives and sea salt. Spoon your Slut onto baguette slices drizzled with olive oil. Makes one serving.

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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.

Trader Joe’s Non-Dairy Coconut Whipped Topping

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FINALLY! A non-dairy whipped topping that tastes like real whipped cream!

For years I’ve been searching for non-dairy whipped topping that approximates Reddi Wip. (Yeah, I know it’s low-brow, but sometimes you just want to shoot whipped cream out of a can.) Last Christmas I tried a rice-based one called Soyatoo! that was awful. But I’d never seen a coconut-based one until I found this all-new offering from Trader Joe’s.

You may have noticed that Trader Joe’s is hit-or-miss. Some of their products are keepers, like their Oreo Cookie knock-off, Joe-Joe’s. Some, not so much — like their Indian papadum in a Pringles-like can. (Not surprisingly, that one went away years ago.)

But this one is a hit. It tastes just like whipped cream, except a little more coconutty. And although making whipped coconut cream isn’t that hard, you can’t beat the convenience of the nitrous-propelled stuff. The hissing sound it makes when you squirt it reminds me of old-fashioned ice cream parlors. In fact, I put some on a sundae topped with chopped nuts and a cherry, and it was a sight to behold.

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Under the topping: Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Chocolate Fudge Brownie.

If you want a midcentury throwback dessert that will delight people of all ages, make Jell-O and decorate it with this whipped topping. This stuff is perfect for Jell-O!

And you can always squirt some whipped topping on a mug of hot chocolate or coffee. Add a light dusting of cinnamon or cocoa powder, and you’ve got an Instagrammable beverage that puts Starbucks to shame.

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Daiya New York Cheezecake

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The best thing about writing a food blog is it gives me an excuse to try stuff I’d otherwise feel guilty about eating. Like cheesecake! Excuse me, I mean “cheezecake,” which is the cutesy way of saying it contains no real cheese.

Daiya Foods is a brand that makes a lot of dairy-free products — some good, some not so good. Daiya Mozzarella, for instance, is the vegan cheese that Blaze Pizza uses, and I love it. But Daiya Cream Cheeze is awful. Which is why I was skeptical about the New York Cheezecake. Add to that a gluten-free crust, and I was ready to hate it.

But I didn’t. In fact, I liked Daiya New York Cheezecake so much that I ate two servings of it. (The servings are small; don’t judge.)

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Its texture is smooth and creamy. It’s tangy like cream cheese. And the crust, although nothing to write home about, is pretty decent. Actually, considering it was frozen and defrosted, the crust is pretty damn good.

Now, I haven’t eaten real cheesecake in about five years, and sometimes I wonder how much my tastebuds have skewed since I started eating fake dairy products. So just to be sure I wasn’t crazy, I made my husband — an inveterate dairy-eater — try some of this cheezecake. Even he liked it!

It also helps when you make your cheezecake look like a Pac-Man.

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Here’s some good news: Daiya makes a Pumpkin Spice Cheezecake. I won’t be getting that one because after taking a stand against the Pumpkin Spice Latte (read rant here), it would seem hypocritical to embrace the Pumpkin Spice Cheezecake.

But for those of you who enjoy pumpkin-flavored things, the Daiya PSC would be a super-easy dessert to serve at your Thanksgiving gathering this year. Just keep in mind you have to defrost it a day in advance. It’s also quite small; a whole cake is only four servings. So if you’re serving a big brood, get a few.

To all my American readers, have a lovely Thanksgiving. Thanks for being you!

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Progresso Tomato Basil Soup

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It’s that time of year when I start eating a lot of soup. Of course, homemade is the best, but I like to keep a few canned soups on hand for those days when I don’t have the energy to cook.

I love a smooth, tangy tomato soup. Many have dairy in them, so I’m always on the lookout for ones that don’t. Progresso Tomato Basil is dairy-free and I was excited to try it, since their Chickarina soup is one of my favorites.

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Unfortunately, this tomato basil soup was a huge disappointment. It’s a beautiful red color, but has a thin, watery consistency. And it’s way too sweet. I don’t understand why any soup should have sugar in it; soup should be strictly savory, in my opinion. This one tastes like ketchup.

To quote my favorite movie, Goodfellas, “I ordered some spaghetti with marinara sauce, and I got egg noodles and ketchup.” Nothing should ever taste like ketchup — except ketchup. And even that’s questionable.

So where can you find a good dairy-free tomato soup? They serve a fantastic freshly-made one at Tender Greens, a healthy California chain that focuses on sustainable ingredients and will soon be opening locations in New York and Boston. Their roasted tomato soup is vegan, and it’s delicious and easy on the eyes with a drizzle of basil oil floating on top.

In the meantime, stay away from Progresso’s tomato soup and always check the label on canned soups to see if there’s sugar added. If it’s the second or third ingredient listed, you can bet it’s going to be too sweet.

Know of any great canned dairy-free soups? Please share in the comments!

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