Star Wars Blue Milk at Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland

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As soon as I read that the “Blue Milk” at Galaxy’s Edge — the new(ish) Star Wars-themed section of Disneyland — was dairy-free, I knew I’d be reviewing it for my blog. I was fortunate enough to visit the Happiest Place on Earth last week and finally saw Galaxy’s Edge for myself. Since this is a food blog, not an amusement park blog, I won’t say much about Galaxy’s Edge itself, except that overall it was underwhelming. Not bad… just not as amazing as it could be. And the same could be said about the Blue Milk.

That azure concoction that Luke Skywalker drank in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope — or as we Gen-Xers call it, just plain old Star Wars — was the inspiration for this beverage, sold at a vendor simply called the Milk Stand. But don’t look for a sign that says “Milk Stand,” because just about every sign in Galaxy’s Edge (other than the one for restrooms) is written in an alien language.

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In addition to Blue Milk, you can also get Green Milk, but I didn’t try that one. I have heard, though, that the Green Milk tastes fairly foul.

Both beverages are dairy-free, vegan, and made from a blend of coconut and rice milks. Blue Milk has the consistency of a smoothie and tastes sort of like a piña colada, minus the rum. But it’s not as sweet, and it has a slightly oily mouthfeel. This might be because — as I found out later from this great blog post on WDW News Today — the drink contains coconut oil.

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This is not what I would’ve envisioned for Blue Milk. If it were up to me, I would’ve made this a blue raspberry-flavored milkshake. (We all know there’s no such thing as a “blue raspberry,” but this mythical flavor is now what we expect when we see a blue beverage.) They could offer a regular Blue Milk, made with cow’s milk, and a vegan Blue Milk, made with full-fat coconut milk.

And finally, they need to dispense these beverages not from industrial spigots like the kind used for Slurpees, but poured by hand from a futuristic Tupperware pitcher, as Luke’s Aunt Beru did. Either that, or squeezed from the udder of an animatronic Bantha.

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All my criticisms notwithstanding, I drank my entire cup of Blue Milk. Several hours later, I had the kind of gastrointestinal distress you really don’t want to have at an amusement park. Now, I can’t say whether this was from the Blue Milk or the twelve other gut-bomb-inducing snacks I consumed that afternoon. But it was bad enough to make me think twice about getting Blue Milk again.

If you do decide to try it, may the Force be with you.

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Cocobella Creamery

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Cocobella Creamery is one of the few ice cream parlors in Los Angeles that serve vegan ice cream exclusively. Having thoroughly disliked another one—Kippy’s in Venice—I was skeptical about Cocobella, until I found out they use oat milk as the base in half their flavors. Since I’m currently on an oat milk kick, I decided to give it a try.

I sampled four oat milk flavors: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Forbidden Horchata, Hong Kong Milk Tea, and Moose Tracks. The first three were so-so—not bad, but not great. They all lacked a strong flavor. I was especially disappointed that the Hong Kong Milk Tea was so “subtle,” as the woman behind the counter put it. I would kill for a dairy-free ice cream that tastes like boba tea. Alas, this one did not deliver.

But I did like Moose Tracks, a vanilla base with chunks of chocolate and sunflower butter cups (which taste like peanut butter cups). It wasn’t as rich and smooth as real ice cream, but it wasn’t grainy like Kippy’s. And it didn’t have a weird aftertaste as so many non-dairy ice creams do. (I didn’t bother with their coconut milk flavors for his very reason; the taste of coconut tends to dominate.)

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A kid’s scoop of Moose Tracks.

The biggest draw of Cocobella is the sheer variety of flavors. If you eat a lot of vegan ice cream, you will appreciate this. And I like that they’re diving into oat milk territory. But here are the problems with Cocobella:

(1) It’s expensive—$4.25 for a kid’s scoop, the smallest and cheapest thing on the menu.

(2) The parking can be a hassle. Before 5 p.m., the lot is free. But when I came on a Saturday night, the lot was valet-only and cost $12. (Blame the bar and Cuban supper club next door). Apparently, Cocobella customers get ten minutes free, but I didn’t know this so I took my chances and parked illegally on the street.

Am I going to run back to Cocobella anytime soon? No. I’d rather go to Ralphs and get a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, which kicks Cocobella’s ass. But if I’m in the neighborhood on a hot day, I might stop by to check out their flavors… as long as I can find free parking.

COCOBELLA CREAMERY, 1253 Vine St., Suite 12, Los Angeles, CA 90038

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Chobani Non-Dairy Coconut-Based Yogurt

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I’ve tried a lot of non-dairy yogurts, and most of them have been terrible. Some, inedible. But this new coconut-based yogurt from Chobani exceeded my expectations. I used to like the coconut-based Coyo — which was better than any of the almond milk-based yogurts — but its texture can be grainy, and when cold it tends to solidify. Not appealing.

Chobani’s coconut-based yogurt, on the other hand, has a smooth consistency and a nice white color. The only problem I noticed upon opening it was how little product there was in the cup. It looked only about two thirds full. But I suppose this would be convenient if you were throwing some fruit or nuts in there.

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The flavor of Chobani’s non-dairy yogurt is similar to Coyo, but a little less strong on the coconut. This is a good thing, in my book. You can still taste the coconut, however, and after eating an entire container, I was kind of over it. But I’d still buy this yogurt again. It’s perfectly fine when consumed with berries and granola, and would probably work great in smoothies or a mango lassi.

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Keep in mind that this yogurt is pre-sweetened with cane sugar. I don’t usually like pre-sweetened yogurt, preferring to adjust the sweetness on my own with honey, but it wasn’t cloyingly sweet. It has a nice tartness to it, as yogurt should.

Finally, a dairy-free yogurt that doesn’t suck! To read my reviews of other dairy-free yogurts, click on the “yogurt” tag below.

So Delicious Dairy-Free Ice Cream Sandwiches

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The ice cream sandwiches that I used to get from the Good Humor truck still hold a nostalgic place in my heart. They were simple: vanilla ice cream between two rectangular chocolate cookies. Years ago, when I was on a month-long meditation retreat, we went on a day trip into town (the only time we left the monastery) and were given one dollar to spend on whatever we wanted. Other people bought a pint of fresh strawberries or dental floss. I bought a Blue Bunny ice cream sandwich.

A dairy-free ice cream sandwich like the classic has been surprisingly hard to find. (Tofutti Cuties are the closest thing, though they’re soy-based and I can’t eat soy.) But now So Delicious has come out with a coconut-milk ice cream sandwich that is very close to the classic Good Humor or Blue Bunny one. It’s smaller — about half the size — but that’s a good thing!

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Usually, I like my cookies crisp. But the cookies in those classic ice cream sandwiches were soft and moist, almost like cake, and their forgiving texture made them easy to eat. Have you ever tried to eat an ice cream sandwich that has hard cookies? When you bite down, the ice cream shoots out the sides. It’s frustrating and makes a mess.

The soft cookies, on the other hand, allow you to take a neat little bite.

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As for the dairy-free ice cream in the middle, it’s the right texture, but the flavor of coconut is too strong to fool you into thinking it’s real vanilla ice cream. If you like coconuts, this won’t be a problem. If you don’t, beware.

I’ve just discovered on the So Delicious website that they make an almond-milk ice cream sandwich. I suspect I’d like this one better. As soon as I can find it, I’ll try it and post my review.

Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Coconut Seven Layer Bar

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This pint of Ben & Jerry’s Coconut Seven Layer Bar was one of the five-pack of Ben & Jerry’s non-dairy ice creams that I received as a birthday gift. It’s got a coconut-flavored base with fudge chunks, walnuts, and swirls of graham cracker and caramel. Now, I wouldn’t have bought this for myself as I don’t like the taste of coconut (with the exception of pina coladas), but since it was part of the gift, of course I had to try it.

The verdict: Everything’s great about it except that it tastes like coconut! All of the stuff embedded in this ice cream is good — even the walnuts, which I’m usually not a huge fan of, were in such small quantities as to be innocuous. If all of that stuff were in, say, a vanilla base, I would give this an enthusiastic thumbs-up.

But I just don’t like coconut, despite my penchant for most tropical things.

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This also made me wonder why they would bother making a coconut-flavored ice cream with almond milk. I mean, all of Ben & Jerry’s non-dairy ice creams are made with almond milk, but for a coconut-flavored ice cream, why not use coconut milk?

Coconut Bliss makes non-dairy ice creams using a coconut cream base, and they’re exceptionally smooth and creamy. If you’re into coconut ice cream, I’d recommend this brand. (Vanilla Island and Naked Coconut are two of their most coconutty flavors.)

But of course, nobody does chunks of stuff in your ice cream like Ben & Jerry’s. They are the masters of chunks. So if that’s your thing and you love the taste of coconut, their Coconut Seven Layer Bar will probably delight you.

Let’s hope Ben & Jerry’s rolls out more non-dairy flavors soon. In fact, they’re taking suggestions on their website for non-dairy flavors, so put in your requests here!

Reddi-Wip Non-Dairy Almond Milk Whipped Topping

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Making dairy-free whipped cream is relatively easy: You just beat the hell out of some coconut cream. But if you don’t like the taste of coconuts or you just want the convenience of store-bought whipped topping, Reddi-Wip now has one made with almond milk.

It’s hard to tell the difference between this and the regular version of Reddi-Wip. It has a similar look and consistency — light and fluffy, filled with air. It’s super-sweet, just like the regular stuff. And it doesn’t taste like almonds.

Here’s a big dollop on top of my homemade gingerbread:

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I’ve tried a few non-dairy whipped creams, and Reddi-Wip’s is a million times better than Soyatoo!, one that’s made with rice milk. I would say it’s on par with Trader Joe’s Coconut Whipped Topping, but that one has a distinctly coconutty flavor not everyone enjoys. (Reddi-Wip also makes one with coconut milk.)

Here’s Trader Joe’s Almond Nog topped with Reddi-Wip Almond Milk Whipped Topping. Almonds galore and totally dairy-free!

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Peet’s Pumpkin Latte

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It’s officially autumn, and that means PSL mania.

Last year I wrote a screed about Starbucks in which I swore I would never drink a Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL). I haven’t broken that vow… but curiosity did lead me to try a Pumpkin Latte at Peet’s Coffee & Tea. Most of the drinks I’ve had at Peet’s are far superior to their Starbucks counterparts, so I figured Peet’s was the way to go if I was going to give in to the PSL hype.

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For a limited time, Peet’s is now offering a bunch of spiced lattes, including pumpkin, that can be made with your choice of non-dairy milk. I went with almond milk, although in hindsight I wish I’d gone with coconut, which Peet’s now offers (there was a time when they didn’t). I think the coconut milk would’ve given the Pumpkin Latte a thickness and fluffiness that was noticeably lacking.

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Peet’s Pumpkin Latte was not bad. It was a perfectly fine drink, albeit light on the coffee flavor. But did it taste like a pumpkin pie? Sadly, no. It reminded me more of a chai latte: slightly spiced, a little savory. I drank the whole thing, but I wouldn’t order it again. It just didn’t pack the autumnal punch I was hoping for. And if you love the taste of coffee, you would be better off getting a plain old latte.

As a footnote, I’ll add that despite not being bowled over by their Pumpkin Latte, Peet’s continues to be my favorite coffee shop. Every so often I’ll get excited that some random coffee place offers dairy-free milks and I’ll order an almond milk latte, and I’m shocked at how often I end up with something that is so bad it’s undrinkable. Not all dairy-free coffee drinks are alike! Pick and choose carefully, and share with us the ones you love!

Trader Joe’s Non-Dairy Thai Tea Mini Mochi Ice Cream

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Here’s the problem with Trader Joe’s: I go in there to get some eggs, I get distracted by all the new products in cute packaging, and I come out with fifteen items — none of which are eggs. Then after loading my car, I realize my mistake and I have to crawl back in there to get the eggs, making sure to go to a different cashier this time so that the first one doesn’t recognize me and say, “Weren’t you just here?”

This week, I was distracted by the pumpkin-flavored dog treats (so crunchy and autumnal!) and the newest offering in the frozen dessert aisle: Non-Dairy Thai Tea Mini Mochi. First of all, how can you resist this festive box? Pastels and polka dots? It’s so pretty you could give it to someone as a gift and not even bother to wrap it.

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The fact that these mochi are miniature makes them even more appealing. Bite-sized nuggets mean convenient snacking and less sugar with each serving. I love anything mini, like miniskirts, Mini Coopers, and Minnie Mouse.

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Minnie and me polka-dotting it up at Disneyland in 2013.

Like their Vegan Matcha Green Tea Mochi, Trader Joe’s Thai Tea Mini Mochi are made from coconut milk. Some ice cream alternatives made from coconut milk simply taste too much like coconuts, but this one doesn’t. It tastes like tea.

But “Thai tea” might be a bit of a stretch. Thai tea is traditionally a strong black tea, sometimes spiced, mixed with sweetened condensed milk and served over ice. It’s a lactose-intolerant person’s worst nightmare. I don’t understand how all these Asians are digesting condensed milk. It makes no sense.

Despite the name, the Trader Joe’s mochi taste just like black tea. There’s nothing Thai about it. In fact, the ice cream is not too sweet and that’s a good thing.

Just so you know, when you open the package, this is what you’ll see:

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All you need to do is pop those suckers out of their sad plastic tray, arrange them on a tea plate, and serve them with a cup of your favorite tea. Not too shabby and way more special than a box of Joe-Joe’s — although I wouldn’t kick those out of bed either.

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Orange Creamsicle Smoothie

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I make a fresh smoothie every morning as part of my breakfast, and I just have to share one of my favorites with you: the orange creamsicle. It tastes a lot like that classic ice cream treat, but it’s much healthier — no dairy and no sugar, other than the natural sugar from the fruit. It’s the perfect guilt-free dessert on a hot day.

I love it because it’s ridiculously easy to make, especially if you keep sliced bananas in your freezer (a great way to salvage overripe bananas) and if you’re lucky enough to have an orange tree in your yard like us!

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ORANGE CREAMSICLE SMOOTHIE RECIPE

1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 orange, peeled and separated into sections
1 frozen sliced banana
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk

Put all the ingredients into a blender. Blend until smooth.

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Van Leeuwen Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream

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My homemade dairy-free chocolate chip cookie sundae.

Ever since I went dairy-free, I’ve been looking for a non-dairy version of my favorite ice cream flavor, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. You could say it’s my “white whale.” Ben & Jerry’s, the originator of the flavor, has inexplicably left this one out of its selection of non-dairy ice creams. So when I saw that a brand called Van Leeuwen made one, I was super-excited about it.

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This one has a coconut cream base. That’s pretty evident when you taste it. The vanilla flavor is overwhelmed by the flavor of coconut. Which would be fine for ice creams that are more tropical in nature (like, say, pineapple or banana). But for Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough? It’s a little weird.

As you can see in the photo below, there’s not a whole lot of cookie dough in there anyway. When I opened the lid, it looked like one random chunk of cookie dough ended up in a pint of vanilla ice cream. (You know those people who complain about the number of shrimp in their lo mein order? I’m becoming more like them every day.)

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The cookie dough itself was decent. I couldn’t tell it was vegan. But the coconut flavor of the base really took front and center. As I’m not a huge fan of coconut-flavored ice cream to begin with, this made my experience vaguely unpleasant.

I should’ve known. I’ve tried a few of Larry & Luna’s Coconut Bliss non-dairy flavors, also made from coconut cream, and the only one I truly liked was Mint Galactica, probably because the strong mint flavor masked the coconut. Another coconut-based ice cream I tried, Nada Moo, also had a strong coconut flavor.

Ben & Jerry’s uses an almond milk base, which to me, tastes better. I just wish they’d quit messing around and give us a non-dairy Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough already!

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Ben & Jerry, we’re begging you to make this dairy-free.

I haven’t given up completely on Van Leeuwen, though. They have a scoop shop in Culver City where there are many more flavors available. I imagine the Vegan Pink Lemonade, one of their current specials, could be refreshing on a hot day.

If I ever check it out, I’ll let you all know. In the meantime, let me know if you’ve tried Van Leeuwen vegan ice cream and what you think of it.