Another Blog Bites the Dust

Just before the holidays, I decided to take a break from writing this blog. During the break, I had a chance to do some careful reflection about both my eating habits and the blog itself. What I realized is that, after nearly four years of weekly posts, the time has come to put Dairy-Free To Be You and Me to rest. Here’s why.

First, let me be honest: It’s been hard to find material. Although new dairy-free alternatives are showing up all the time, many of them are similar, and I’ve started to feel like a broken record. The last thing I want to do is “jump the shark,” like Fonzie did on those water skis. Better to admit I’ve run out of ideas.

Second, at the risk of being a cliché, I have embarked on a New Year’s resolution to eat more healthfully. For me, this means cutting back on carbohydrates and sugar. What I’ve noticed is that most dairy-free alternatives are paired with foods I shouldn’t be eating anyway — like pizza, grilled cheese, bagels, ice cream and other desserts. In my attempt to find material for the blog, I have actually brought more of these foods into my life.

Some of the sugary gifts we received this Christmas.

Giving up the blog will free up more of my time for healthy pursuits. I remember hearing an interview with Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, in which he said that if people stopped watching cooking shows and spent that time actually cooking instead, they’d be eating a lot better. What will I do with the time I used to spend researching and writing this blog? Perhaps cooking that extra vegetable dish or prepping stuff for salads. Because the only thing keeping me from eating more salads is all that damn chopping.

Before I go, I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite dairy-free items, the ones I have come back to again and again. Consider it a “greatest hits” list.

Daiya “Cutting Board Collection” Dairy-Free Cheese Shreds
Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
Magnum Non-Dairy Chocolate-Dipped Ice Cream Bars
Peet’s Almond Milk Latte
Nutella Latte at Republic of Pie
Lebanese Rose Milk Tea at Labobatory
Dole Whip

Thank you to all my faithful readers. I’ve enjoyed sharing this space with you, and I wish you the best of luck in your dairy-free adventures.

Halloween 2019
Me as Freddie Mercury, singing “Another Blog Bites the Dust.”

Vegan Pumpkin Pie Frozen Yogurt


You know it’s fall because the Pumpkin Spice Latte is back in full force. But it’s not just the PSL… everything seems to be pumpkin-flavored right now. Even frozen yogurt.

The Yogurt Shoppe in Brentwood had four vegan flavors the day I went there. Not a bad selection. I sampled three of them, and though they were all good, the best was the pumpkin pie. Imagine pumpkin pie filling in ice cream form. I only wish they had crumbled pie crust to sprinkle on top.


They do have a huge selection of toppings, including fresh fruit, candy, cookies, syrups and more. Everything is self-serve, even the frozen yogurt itself. You simply create your sugary monstrosity and then bring it to the cashier, who charges you by weight. If you can guess the price of your monstrosity — to the exact penny — you get it for free. If you’re not good at math, bring someone who is.



Overall, I’d say The Yogurt Shoppe beats The Bigg Chill, that super-popular froyo joint on Westwood Boulevard. It’s got a lot more non-dairy options, for one thing. And a bigger selection of toppings. I also like that they charge by weight, because if you want a small portion you’re not stuck with a giant cup that costs $5.

The vegan pumpkin pie froyo is a seasonal flavor only available for a limited time, so if you’re a pumpkin fanatic, put down the PSL and get over to The Yogurt Shoppe, pronto.



THE YOGURT SHOPPE, 11726 Barrington Ct., Los Angeles, CA 90049

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.


Reddi-Wip Non-Dairy Almond Milk Whipped Topping


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:


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!


Trader Joe’s Almond Nog (Dairy-Free Eggnog)

Now that Thanksgiving is over, Christmas has exploded all over the place. Even if you’ve been avoiding the Black Friday madness by steering clear of shopping malls, you still have to buy groceries. And even in supermarkets you’ll be hit in the face with a dizzying array of holiday products.

Like Trader Joe’s Almond Nog, an impossibly dairy-free version of eggnog — you know, that sweet, thick wintertime beverage that people either love or hate. I happen to love eggnog, but I haven’t had it since I gave up dairy years ago. Because the kind I liked was basically 80% heavy cream and 20% raw eggs. That’s a recipe for digestive distress if there ever was one.

So when I saw this almond-milk-based eggnog, free of cow’s milk and even eggs, I gave in to my curiosity. Once again, Trader Joe’s sucked me in with cute packaging. How could I resist an almond wearing a “Where’s Waldo” scarf?


I was skeptical about its claim of being “rich and creamy.” Based on past experiences with non-dairy beverages, I expected it to have a thin, watery consistency and an artificial flavor.

But this eggnog is indeed thicker than I expected. Not as thick as one made with heavy cream, but that may be too thick for many people anyway. It’s definitely thick enough to coat your mouth for a good five seconds after you’ve swallowed it.

And it tastes fairly natural. There’s no obvious almond flavor. That’s remarkable considering its main ingredient is almonds.

A dusting of nutmeg is a must.

But this eggnog is very sweet, which makes it more of a dessert than a drink you’d have with food. (Then again, there are people who suck down milkshakes while eating cheeseburgers, so I could be wrong.) To cut the sweetness level, I added a little non-dairy creamer and it worked like a charm.

Traditionally, eggnog is spiked with rum. So I tried the almond nog with a tablespoon of rum mixed in. Yum! The alcohol, like the creamer, tones down the sweetness. You can use a lighter rum like Bacardi, but I like this Koloa Kaua’i Dark Hawaiian Rum because it has a hint of vanilla flavor that goes well with desserts.


So if you’re lamenting about having to “do without” this Christmas because every treat seems to be loaded with dairy, give this almond nog a try and let me know how you like it!

The Best Dairy-Free Birthday Gift


Did you know that you can order a gift pack of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be delivered right to the doorstep of your loved ones? I didn’t, until a FedEx guy showed up at our house a few days ago carrying a big cardboard box with this label on it:


Turned out my awesome friend Jill, whom I mentioned in an earlier blog post, sent me this delightful birthday gift. Inside the box was a styrofoam cooler containing five pints of Ben & Jerry’s non-dairy ice creams, which were kept frozen solid during transit with bags of dry ice.


And if that weren’t enough to make my day, the gift pack came with a pint cozy and Euphori-Lock, which, their website explains, are intended “to keep hands comfy while digging in and hands off when you’re not!”



I doubt I’ll have to lock up my pints, since my husband would rather eat real ice cream than dairy-free (although he has already made a dent in the Non-Dairy Cherry Garcia).

But that pint cozy has my name all over it (actually, it has “B&J” all over it). The little wooden spoon it comes with is also adorable. They make sitting on the couch, eating ice cream straight from the carton — what I refer to as “Ally McBeal-ing it” — feel less pathetic because it’s so darn cute.

My ice cream is wearing a sweater.

I confess that I just spent the evening Ally McBeal-ing some Non-Dairy Cinnamon Buns while watching Deep Blue Sea on Netflix, the popular “sharks gone wild” action movie from 1999. Big thumbs-up for any action movie starring Samuel L. Jackson.

You’ll have to tune back in next week for my review of Cinnamon Buns!


Pumpkin-Shaped Nacho Cheese Ball

Halloween 2014

Halloween is coming up, and you know what that means: MORE PUMPKIN STUFF! At Halloween parties, no one can resist this spicy nacho-flavored cheese ball that is shaped like a pumpkin. I have a thing for food that looks like other food — cupcakes that look like spaghetti, for instance. Want to make something look like a pumpkin? Make it round and orange. Done.

From the book Hello Cupcake.

I first found the cheese ball recipe in Food Network Magazine back in October 2012, and I made it using regular cheese. Every year it was a huge hit. But I’m lactose-intolerant, so I wanted to try making the cheese ball using lactose-free products. Guess what? It works!

I used Green Valley Lactose-Free Cream Cheese and Beemster Vlaskaas Cheese (which is naturally lactose-free). But you can use dairy-free, vegan cheeses if there are some you like.



Adapted from Food Network Magazine

16 ounces lactose-free cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups shredded lactose-free cheese (preferably cheddar)
3 tablespoons minced onion
3 tablespoons salsa
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1-2 handfuls of spicy Doritos (e.g., Tapatío, Spicy Nacho, Poppin’ Jalapeño), crushed
1 bell pepper stem
blue corn tortilla chips

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to blend the cream cheese, cheddar, onion, salsa, and cumin. Don’t overmix or the cheese will become too soft.

Line a small bowl with plastic wrap and scoop the cheese mixture into it. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Lift the plastic-wrapped cheese mixture from the bowl and shape it into a 5-inch ball. Unwrap it, roll it in crushed Doritos, and press a bell pepper stem into the top. Serve with blue corn tortilla chips.

Daiya Pumpkin Spice Cheezecake


This fall I’ve given in to the pumpkin spice craze that seems to have started when the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte became mega-popular. So far, I’m not impressed. I thought Peet’s Pumpkin Latte was okay, but not something I would order again. And now I’ve tried Daiya’s limited seasonal flavor, the dairy-free Pumpkin Spice Cheezecake.

Although I liked Daiya’s New York Cheezecake, this pumpkin-flavored one was not a winner. The cheesecake itself is smooth, creamy, and tangy, as a cheesecake should be. But the pumpkin spices give it an artificial taste that I did not enjoy. I kind of felt like I was eating a Yankee Candle.


The graham cracker crust was disappointing. It, too, had an artificial flavor and its texture was pasty. I don’t know if this was a result of it sitting in the freezer too long at the store, but whatever it was, I have to give the crust a thumbs-down.

I was hoping that the Pumpkin Spice Cheezecake would be a viable alternative to pies and other dairy-laden desserts that are popular at this time of year. But this is one of those “free from” desserts that isn’t worth the calories.

Stay tuned for more reviews and recipes for fall-themed dairy-free goodies!

Peet’s Pumpkin Latte

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.


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.


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!

Winston Pies in Brentwood


I know, I just wrote about pie last week. But that was a peanut butter pie, and this time I want to write about fruit pies, because that’s what we think of when the Fourth of July rolls around. On our nation’s birthday, there’s nothing more American than apple pie — but really, any fruit pie is a fitting dessert at an Independence Day picnic or barbecue.

The thing I love about fruit pies is they’re usually dairy-free, unless you count the butter in the crust and unless, of course, if you eat it with a glob of whipped cream on top or ice cream on the side. (Please don’t eat pie with ice cream on top. It makes the pie soggy, dude.)

One day, walking along San Vicente Boulevard in the Brentwood neighborhood of West Los Angeles, my husband and I stopped in at Winston Pies, a small local bakery that serves homemade pie. We ordered a slice of the blueberry pie and an almond milk latte.


Yes, the pie tasted as good as it looked.

The crust was flakier than any pie crust I’ve ever had. I don’t know much about baking, but I do know that making a pastry that flaky is a difficult task. Unlike a croissant, this pie crust is not flaky and light; it’s flaky and dense. You will either love it or hate it. I’m in the love category.

As for the blueberry filling, it tasted fresh and not too sweet. Many fruit pies have a syrupy-sweet filling that’s either too liquid-y or weirdly gelatinous. This filling was the perfect balance of flavors and textures.

The coffee was just okay. But points for the non-dairy milk options and the cool hand-glazed mug.

More points for the seating inside: There’s a wooden bench hanging from the ceiling that actually swings a little, so you feel like you’re eating pie on a front porch in the South.

July 4, 1970: My mom grills several pounds of meat in Madison, Wisconsin.

The pie flavors at Winston Pies rotate seasonally, but right now there are about six out of twelve flavors that are cream-free. That’s a pretty good ratio. I can’t wait to try the Orchard Peach & Nectarine. Stone fruit + pie = awesomeness.

Right now they’ve got a special called “A Berry American Pie” that has a vanilla filling with raspberries and blackberries, so that it’s red, white and blue. It’s got a gluten-free shortbread crust, which I haven’t tried yet but I’d be willing to bet is pretty damn good.

Whether or not you’re eating pie, have a great Fourth of July!

WINSTON PIES, 11678 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90049