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.”

Jasmine Lime Tea Cooler


My favorite beverage at Peet’s Coffee & Tea used to be the jasmine lime tea cooler, a refreshingly sweet and tart iced tea they offered during the summer. Unfortunately, they took it off the menu years ago, which left me and many other fans of this drink bereft.

A friend of mine used to work as a barista at Peet’s and told me the recipe: iced jasmine green tea mixed with Lime Odwalla. Alas, the Lime Odwalla has also mysteriously disappeared from shelves.

So I decided to make my own jasmine lime tea cooler, using fresh lime juice in place of the Lime Odwalla. I use honey as a sweetener. The key is to sweeten the tea while it’s hot (so that the honey dissolves more easily), rather than trying to sweeten the lime juice.

If you find the drink is still too tart for your taste, you can add more honey or sugar later, but make sure you stir it really well. Better yet, use simple syrup.

A pitcher of this iced tea will get you through the hottest days of late summer. Enjoy!

I use Numi organic tea, but any jasmine tea will do.


3 1/2 cups water
3 jasmine green tea bags
2 tablespoons honey, or more to taste
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 or 3 limes)

Place tea bags in a 1-quart glass pitcher. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Pour over tea bags and let steep for 4 minutes.

Remove tea bags. Add honey to the tea; stir until it dissolves. Refrigerate the tea for a few hours until chilled.

Add lime juice and 1 1/2 cups cold water; stir well. Serve over ice. Makes 4 cups.


Labobatory’s “50 Shades of Earl Grey” Boba Milk Tea


If you’re the kind of person who enjoys clever drink names, then you’ll love Labobatory, my favorite boba tea shop in the San Gabriel Valley. The drink in the picture above is called “50 Shades of Earl Grey.” The name alone is cool. The fact that it’s actually grey makes it that much cooler.

What makes it grey? Charcoal. I asked the boba-ista what the charcoal does, thinking that it had some health benefits, and she said, “Nothing really. We just put it in there for the color.” But then she added that some people do take charcoal supplements for detoxification purposes. I could use some detoxifying, for sure.

My go-to drink from Labobatory is the Lebanese Rose Milk Tea, which remains the best rose milk tea I’ve ever had. Like rose milk tea, Earl Grey milk teas are fairly common at boba shops. But Labobatory takes common drinks and does them to perfection. The 50 Shades of Earl Grey, though not wildly different from other boba shops’ Earl Grey teas, was the best one I’ve ever had in terms of quality.

The flavor of the tea is strong but not bitter or too heavy on the bergamot. The dairy-free milk is smooth and creamy. (They use non-dairy creamer unless you specify otherwise; they also offer regular milk, soy milk, and almond milk.) The drink comes out the perfect temperature and has just the right amount of ice.

But here’s what I like best: You can adjust the sweetness level, even to 0%. At many boba shops, if you ask them to make an Earl Grey milk tea with no sugar, they can’t do it. Why? Because they use a pre-sweetened Earl Grey powder or syrup, rather than making the drink from freshly brewed Earl Grey tea. Since I don’t like my tea sweetened, I will go out of my way to find boba shops like Labobatory.

And did I mention that my drink was grey??? This is the type of beverage that will get you a lot of views on Instagram, if that’s the kind of thing you’re into.


I declined getting the boba pearls in my 50 Shades of Earl Grey because I’m trying to cut down on carbs. But even without those chewy little bombs, this drink was top-notch. I just hope that the owner of Labobatory opens a shop in L.A. again — the now-defunct Boba 7, which offered alcoholic boba drinks, was a true gem.

LABOBATORY, 819 W. Las Tunas Dr., San Gabriel, CA 91776 

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


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.


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.

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:


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.



“Nectar Sun” Herbal Iced Tea


One of the most fun things about travel is bringing home something that reminds you of your trip. I don’t mean the kind of souvenir that you buy in a gift shop, because chances are that coffee mug or magnet is going to end up in the Goodwill box. I mean something that has a special significance for you.

On our latest vacation in Las Vegas, we stayed at the Nobu Hotel inside Caesars Palace, an offshoot of Nobu the sushi restaurant. (For my review of the hotel, click here.) In the serene, minimalist lobby, they offered free iced tea for hotel guests all day long. But this wasn’t just any old iced tea… it was a delectable herbal blend that I’d never tasted before. It was called “Nectar Sun.”

Now, I’ve always preferred black teas, the stronger the better. But the caffeine can mess with my sleep, and I can’t drink tea with milk because I’m lactose-intolerant. So I’m always looking for herbal teas that’ll hit the spot. Nectar Sun had a surprising depth to it, plus a hint of sweetness without being cloying. I realized there was no reason I couldn’t have some of that herbal magic back home.

Dairy bombs: stuff I did NOT eat in Vegas.

The problem is that when I looked up Nectar Sun tea, I discovered that it’s only sold wholesale to hotels, restaurants, and spas, and not stocked in retail stores. You can order it directly from the manufacturer, Ikaati, but it costs a whopping $20 for a box of twelve tea sachets. That’s what my dad would call “highway robbery.”

So I decided to make my own version of Nectar Sun. The main ingredients are rooibos tea, marigold, hibiscus, and peach. After experimenting with a few different herbal teas, I came up with a blend that tastes almost exactly like Nectar Sun.


It’s truly guilt-free because rooibos tea is good for you, and the peach tea gives it enough sweetness so that you don’t need to add any sugar. Did I mention that it’s dairy-free, too?

Every time I take a sip, it reminds me of our vacation. What are some foods you’ve made that were inspired by your summer travels? Let me know in the comments below!


3 tea bags of Mighty Leaf Organic African Nectar
1 tea bag of Celestial Seasonings Country Peach Passion
1 quart filtered water

Place tea bags in a heat-proof pitcher. Bring water to a boil and pour over tea bags. Let them steep for 5 minutes. Remove tea bags with a slotted spoon. Let the tea cool, then refrigerate. Serve over ice.

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.

MALK Almond Milk


I already have a favorite almond milk, Trader Joe’s Unsweetened Almond Beverage, which I first bought because the box looked cute. Well, I fell for cool packaging again. Walking through the dairy section of Ralphs on my way to the eggs, I saw this futuristic-looking bottle of MALK Cold-Pressed Pure Almond Milk. It looked like a prop from a sci-fi movie. Can’t you just see Dave Bowman and Frank Poole sipping this stuff on board the ship in 2001: A Space Odyssey?

The ingredients list was also appealingly short and sounded healthy. I know, “Himalayan salt” is probably not much different from regular salt. It’s one of those marketing tools to get hippies like me to buy stuff. Guess what? It worked.


When I brought my MALK home, I still had some Trader Joe’s almond milk in the fridge, so I did a head-to-head taste test. The difference: Trader Joe’s has a subtle nutty flavor, while MALK has a strong almond-extract flavor.

I happen to like that flavor in certain contexts. It’s a staple in many Taiwanese desserts, for instance. At BlackBall in San Gabriel (yeah, that’s really its name), I had a hot almond soup with mochi balls in it that was weird and pretty awesome.

Dairy-free, despite its milky appearance.

But I digress. Back to MALK, almond milk of the future. After tasting its strong flavor, I decided the best use of MALK was in an almond milk tea. This is another Taiwanese classic you’ll see at most boba tea shops. It’s iced black tea with a non-dairy milk, almond-flavored syrup, and optional boba pearls. I usually find almond syrup to be overpowering and too sweet, but by using MALK, I achieved a more balanced almond-extract flavor without adding syrup.

Homemade almond milk tea

My experiment turned out well, but for most of my almond milk needs, I still prefer a subtler flavor. So even though MALK has the best packaging, I’ll be sticking to Trader Joe’s Almond Beverage.

But I can’t bring myself to toss this bottle in the recycling bin. I’m saving it for my next space mission, where all food comes in tubes and all drinks come in cool bottles like this.

The Loose Teas Café and Gifts


One day, looking for a boba place in Monrovia, I came across The Loose Teas Café and Gifts in a strip mall on Huntington Drive. This is not your typical boba place. It’s more of a traditional tea shop, specializing in a large selection of fine loose teas. I ordered my usual — lychee iced tea — and had to send it back because it was too sweet (this happens a lot with me). But the barista adjusted it until I was happy. And I was thrilled by the boba: super fresh with just the right amount of chewiness.

Since then, I have become a big fan of The Loose Teas Café. They make tea the right way: by brewing each cup fresh to order. And for those of us who don’t eat dairy, they offer soy and almond milk, rather than the non-dairy creamer that most boba shops use (yuck).



Last week I ordered an unsweetened iced tea latte made with rose black tea and almond milk.  It was totally on point. Most boba shops that make rose iced tea use rose-flavored syrup that tastes artificial and sickly sweet, instead of tea that’s flavored naturally with rose petals. This makes a huge difference.


Iced tea latte with rose black tea and almond milk

Most boba shops have snacks like popcorn chicken, Taiwanese sausage, and spicy fried fish balls. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some spicy fried fish balls, but they’re a sometimes treat. The Loose Teas Café makes super fresh, healthy sandwiches. They have a turkey sandwich called the “Flaming Bird” that doesn’t come with cheese and yet still tastes great, thanks to their seasoned mayo and house-made hot garlic chili flakes.

I don’t know about you, but I love not having to say, “Hold the cheese.”

Look at those chili flakes! Sprouts, cukes, avocado… heaven!

THE LOOSE TEAS CAFE AND GIFTS, 666 W. Huntington Dr., Monrovia, CA 91016

Trader Joe’s Almond Beverage


The first thing you may ask is what’s the difference between almond “beverage” and almond “milk”? Answer: There is none. Some folks have gotten in a twist about non-dairy milks using the word “milk” on their packaging, but the controversy is kind of silly. Most people use almond milk the same way they would use dairy milk, so calling it milk just makes sense. This “beverage” is exactly the same thing.

There are a lot of almond milks out there and it can be hard to pick one. I’ll admit that, if everything else seems equal, I go for the most attractive packaging. Presentation matters. This brand stood out from the rest because of its clean design and robin’s egg blue color scheme. I suspect that even the most feminist, nonconformist woman is subconsciously drawn to a Tiffany blue box.

You’re not going to find a diamond ring in this one, but you will find a very nice almond milk.

Trader Joe’s Almond Beverage Unsweetened Original tastes nutty and natural. Compared to Almond Breeze Unsweetened Vanilla, Trader Joe’s makes a much better “blank slate” when you add it to coffee or tea, use it for smoothies, or eat it with cereal. (Perhaps the vanilla flavor of the Almond Breeze is what makes it taste a little unnatural; I haven’t yet tried the unflavored kind.)

When you eat cereal with coconut milk, it turns to paste. Almond milk works better.

Every so often I get a hankering for a latte, and I was pleased to find that I can make a wonderful foam out of almond milk using a manual milk frother.

Almond milk latte sprinkled with cinnamon

I also used Trader Joe’s Almond Beverage in a cup of Earl Grey iced tea and it worked beautifully. The slightly nutty flavor of the milk goes well with lots of black teas.

Earl Grey iced tea with almond milk

I wouldn’t make a special trip to Trader Joe’s to buy this almond milk, but the next time I’m there, I would definitely get this one again. At $1.79 a carton, it’s a steal. And as superficial as it may sound, when I open my refrigerator and see that pretty blue box, I get a lift. Who doesn’t need that?

Tea Bar’s Rose Grapefruit Green Tea


Over the past three months since my mom’s stroke, she’s been in a transitional care facility in Glendora. She’s going home soon — yay! — which means I won’t be patronizing restaurants in the area much longer. This is no big tragedy, as most of them aren’t great. But there’s one I will definitely go out of my way to hit, and that’s Tea Bar, an easy-to-miss boba tea shop in a strip mall near Azusa Pacific University.

What makes Tea Bar stand out in this college town filled with boba? Well, the first time I walked in, I ordered the rose grapefruit green tea because I love the flavors of rose and red grapefruit. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Tea Bar uses freshly squeezed grapefruit juice.

The secret to awesomeness: freshly squeezed juice made to order.

This makes all the difference between a run-of-the-mill iced tea and a superb one. Seriously, every time I’m about to visit my mom, I start thinking about getting a rose grapefruit green tea. Does this make me an addict? Probably.

But I try not to feel guilty about this treat because fresh grapefruit juice is filled with vitamin C, and green tea has antioxidants. I always ask for no sugar. (At Tea Bar, like most boba shops, you can specify the sweetness level of any drink.) The grapefruit juice gives this iced tea a tartness that some people may find too intense, but I personally love it. I always say the American diet needs less sweet, more sour.

You can also add boba to all their drinks, of course. Tea Bar’s boba pearls are made in-house, which makes them good but also means they tend to run out often. No problem — the tea is so fantastic that adding boba to it is like drawing a mustache on the Mona Lisa.

TEA BAR, 954 E. Alosta Ave, Azusa, CA 91702