Follow Your Heart Vegan Caesar Salad Dressing


What are the hallmarks of a Caesar salad? It should be thoroughly coated in grated Parmesan cheese; it should be garlicky and lemony; and it should have a salty, fishy bite from anchovies mixed into the dressing (and also laid atop the salad). Without these elements, can a salad really be considered a Caesar?

Follow Your Heart makes a vegan Caesar salad dressing that lacks all of these elements, and not just the non-vegan ones. The website describes this product as “creamy, thick, and rich with garlic and pepper notes.” This is just patently false. Straight from the bottle, this dressing is pitifully thin and struggles to coat the lettuce. I don’t taste garlic at all.


I managed to salvage the dressing somewhat by mixing in some freshly squeezed lemon juice, minced garlic, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, and lots of ground black pepper. I garnished it with a few anchovies, but if you don’t eat fish, you can leave them out.

With these modifications, you can create a decent dairy-free Caesar salad. But the whole point of buying dressing in a bottle is so you don’t have to spend a lot of time whipping up your own. With that in mind, this dressing from Follow Your Heart isn’t worth it.




Simple Truth Organic Vegan Pizza Crust


This time, a pizza crust that is truly dairy-free! The Boboli crust I used the last time turned out to contain milk and cheese, so I went on a mission to find a vegan crust that tastes just as good.

I found one made by Simple Truth Organic, a Kroger house brand. It’s super-thin, more like a flatbread than a pizza — but it still has more of a doughy quality than the gluten-free crusts I’ve tried, which were as hard and dry as a cracker.


This time I used Classico Traditional Pizza Sauce.  It has a nice tanginess and a not-too-watery consistency. Then I piled on the toppings I had on hand: prosciutto, sliced mushrooms, chopped red onion and, of course, Daiya Mozzarella Style Shreds.

Unfortunately, I didn’t heed the instructions on the pizza crust package to bake at 400 degrees. Instead, because I like my pizza crispy, I cooked it at a blazing 500 degrees and ended up burning the edges.


It was still good, though!

As a former New Yorker, I’ve always liked my pizza on the thin side, so this crust works for me. If you’re more of a Chicago pizza kind of person, this isn’t the crust for you. But if you’re looking for a dairy-free, vegan crust that doesn’t have the texture of matzo, you might want to give this one a try.

Homemade Dairy-Free Pizza

Half of a pizza made with mini Boboli crust.

I used to think making a pizza would be a pain. Sure, it’s a lot easier to pick up the phone and order one from Domino’s. But if you don’t eat dairy, ordering a pizza becomes more complicated, because most of the pizzerias that offer dairy-free cheese — like Blaze or Pieology — aren’t that convenient.

So that’s why I decided to make my own pizza, using a pre-made Boboli crust (*see update below), generic pizza sauce in a jar, and Daiya Mozzarella Style Shreds. Guess what? It was a cinch. No driving to the pizzeria, standing in line, and hoping the person who constructed my pizza got the toppings right. I made my own pizza in about five minutes and ate it while it was piping hot.

Boboli makes mini crusts, too, which is what you see in the picture above. These are great for personal-size pizzas — handy when not everyone in the house wants dairy-free cheese. The Daiya shreds don’t melt quite the same as real cheese, but they taste pretty good. So far they’re the best approximation of mozzarella I’ve tried.


I made a dairy-free version of my favorite pizza: sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, green peppers, and red onions. But I can foresee more adventurous pizzas in my future — perhaps prosciutto, cherry tomatoes, and fresh basil? A Mexican-inspired pizza topped with carnitas and Daiya Pepperjack Style Shreds? A “Joe’s omelet” pizza with ground beef and spinach? A while ago I even made a chicken curry pizza using naan for the crust. The possibilities are endless.

Best of all, this is a fun weeknight meal that yields easy-to-reheat leftovers. There’s no recipe to follow — just pile the toppings on your crust and bake in a very hot oven (preferably 500 degrees F) until the cheese melts and the crust is browned.

The rule of thumb is to layer the toppings so the ones that need the most cooking (like raw vegetables) are nearest the top. Feel free to go nuts with seasonings, too; a generous sprinkling of garlic powder, crushed red pepper, dried basil and oregano, and coarse sea salt will bring your pizza to a new level.

UPDATE: One of my readers pointed out that Boboli crusts do, in fact, contain milk and cheese. As I’m not allergic to dairy (only lactose-intolerant), I failed to notice this — there isn’t enough lactose in Boboli crusts to cause any issues for me. But if you are allergic, there are dairy-free pizza crusts available. Many are also gluten-free, and unfortunately, I’ve never had a gluten-free pizza that I actually liked. If I find a good crust that is suitable for dairy-allergic folks, I will let you know.

The Curious Palate


As a dairy-free eater, I have a hard time with sandwiches because they so often have cheese, or they seem pointless without it. But the bahn mi is a cheeseless sandwich that bursts with flavor. I think it’s one of the few successful Asian fusions out there. It’s got the lemongrass-marinated meat and pickled vegetables of Vietnam, paired with the baguette and paté of France.

The Curious Palate in Santa Monica serves a fantastic bahn mi. Is it authentic Vietnamese food? No. But it’s really, really good. The baguette is crusty and fresh, hollowed out to make room for the generous fillings. I chose the braised pork belly for my protein, and it was juicy and flavorful without being too fatty. The pickled carrots, cucumbers, and cabbage were crunchy and tangy — and there was a lot of them. There was no paté, but the chipotle aioli was a nice condiment. And of course, there was plenty of fresh cilantro.


For $17, this isn’t a cheap lunch. But considering the quality of the ingredients and the obvious care that goes into the food, it’s not outrageous. One of the things I appreciated most was that the side salad wasn’t perfunctory — it was good enough that I would even order it as a main.

So if you’re looking for a great dairy-free sandwich, head to the top floor of Santa Monica Place, the mall at the end of the 3rd Street Promenade, and try the bahn mi at the Curious Palate. You won’t even think about missing cheese.

THE CURIOUS PALATE, 395 Santa Monica Place, Suite 321, Santa Monica, CA 90401

Joe’s Pizza, Now with Vegan Cheese


If this pizza doesn’t look quite right, that’s because it’s got vegan cheese on it. Despite its uninspiring appearance, this pizza got me excited — Joe’s Pizza was my favorite when I lived in New York. They opened a chain in Los Angeles years ago, but only recently have they started offering vegan cheese.

One of my fondest New York memories is of ducking into Joe’s on a rainy afternoon and eating a piping-hot slice while I gazed out the window and watched people running around, getting soaked. The taste of Joe’s reminds me of that cozy feeling.

Unfortunately, you can’t get Joe’s with vegan cheese by the slice. You have to order a whole pie. With a base price of $22 per pie, that’s a far cry from the $2 slice I used to get in New York. Still, this pizza made me happy.


The best thing about Joe’s is the crust. It’s crunchy, not too thick and not too thin. It has nicely browned edges and a satisfying bready flavor. This is the crust that New Yorkers love. Does it taste better with real cheese? Yes. But Daiya vegan cheese isn’t bad.

My go-to dairy-free pizza has been Blaze, which also uses Daiya. What I like about Blaze is that you can get as many toppings as you want for no extra charge. The reason I ordered only one topping (sausage) on my Joe’s pizza is that they’re $3 each. The bill can quickly become astronomical.

But the pie was huge and I had plenty of leftovers to take home. So the next day I added my own toppings: mushrooms, spinach, red onion, red pepper flakes, oregano. In a way this is even better, because I can vary the toppings on my leftover slices and not get sick of eating the same thing over and over.


Keep in mind that not all Joe’s Pizza locations in L.A. offer vegan cheese. I visited the one in Santa Monica and they didn’t have it. But if you’re on Hollywood Boulevard and you’re  craving a New York pizza that’s dairy-free, duck into Joe’s. It probably won’t be raining, though.

JOE’S PIZZA, 6504 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028


The Stalking Horse Vegan Caesar Salad


One of the dishes I’ve missed most since giving up dairy is Caesar salad. It’s one of those foods that is really hard to do without dairy because it relies heavily on cheese — Parmesan cheese, to be exact. You just don’t see a lot of dairy-free imitations of Parmesan. Who knows why? Maybe it’s a flavor that’s difficult to capture. This is why so much Italian food is now, sadly, off limits to me. I feel like crying every time I see spaghetti carbonara on a menu.

But The Stalking Horse, my favorite neighborhood pub, has a lot of vegan options, and one of them is a dairy-free Caesar salad. Most of the vegan dishes I’ve had there have been excellent. The Caesar salad, not so much.

I have to give it five stars for appearance, though. I mean, look at that thing! It appears to be the perfect, quintessential Caesar, dotted with fat croutons and heaped with a snowdrift of grated Parmesan… well, what looks like Parmesan. I ordered the optional white anchovy fillets, which were laid atop the salad in a criss-cross shape. I always say that how food looks is very important. If we eat with our eyes first, then my first taste of this salad was heavenly.

But my pleasure did not continue. This salad was like a guy who looks great on his Tinder profile but turns out to be boring as fuck IRL. The problem is that the fake Parm tastes nothing like Parm. There’s no sharpness, no cheesiness. It’s just… bland. If it weren’t for the toasty, crunchy croutons and the salty anchovies, this salad would’ve been a complete dud. A quarter of the way through, I started to feel like I was eating it for medicinal purposes only. You know, for the fiber.

I’d still recommend the Stalking Horse for many of their other offerings: juicy burgers (including the vegan Impossible Burger), meat pies with gorgeous flaky crusts, warm pretzels, dipping chips (thick-cut French fries) with vegan aioli. There are a surprising number of good things to eat there that are dairy-free. Just not the Caesar.

THE STALKING HORSE BREWERY & FREEHOUSE, 10543 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90064


Daiya Dairy-Free Swiss Cheese Slices


Daiya makes a lot of dairy-free products and they’re not all created equal. I like to review as many of them as I can, so you’ll know which ones are worth eating and which aren’t.

When I saw Daiya’s Swiss Style Slices, I was optimistic. I love the Cheddar Style Slices in this same product line. Swiss was one of my favorite cheeses back in my dairy-eating days — it’s the only cheese I would want in a turkey, pastrami, or corned beef sandwich. I started having fantasies of being able to eat chicken cordon bleu and double-decker Reubens.


I tried not to be bothered by the appearance of this “cheeze.” Its uniform roundness and lack of distinctive holes that Swiss cheese is known for make this stuff look like it was manufactured on an assembly line. It reminds me of Oscar Mayer bologna, that round “mystery meat” cold cut that I loved as a child. I used to fold the circle into quarters and strategically take bites out of it so when I opened it back up, it would look like a snowflake. Ah, fun with processed foods.

But I digress. Daiya’s Swiss “cheeze” unfortunately tastes as artificial as it looks. It melts as nicely as Daiya’s cheddar slices, but it has a decidedly weird, chemical aftertaste. It was so unappealing I threw out the package after trying only one slice, in a ham-and-Swiss omelet.

So much for the dairy-free chicken cordon bleu. For now.

If you’d like to read my other reviews of Daiya products, click on the Daiya tag below.

Dairy-Free Skillet Taco Pie


As promised, I’m sharing my recipe for this super-easy weeknight dinner. Dairy-Free Skillet Taco Pie is like a deconstructed crispy taco — and less messy to eat. Contrary to what the name suggests, there’s no crust in it. It’s a nod to Frito Pie, a popular Southwestern dish consisting of chili, cheese, and corn chips.

I adapted this recipe from an issue of Better Homes & Gardens. One of the changes I made was to substitute Daiya dairy-free pepperjack for regular cheese. The Daiya melts easily when mixed into the meat, and you can barely tell it’s not real cheese.


Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens

1 pound ground beef or turkey
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
8 ounces tomato sauce
1/2 cup salsa
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup Daiya pepperjack style shreds
1/4 cup sliced green onion
2 cups shredded lettuce
1 cup chopped tomatoes
2 handfuls tortilla chips, broken

In a large skillet, cook meat and jalapeño pepper over medium-high heat until meat is browned.

Stir in beans, tomato sauce, salsa, chili powder, and cumin. Bring to boiling; reduce heat to medium. Simmer, covered, about 5 minutes or until slightly thickened.

Stir in the “cheese” and cook until it melts.

Spoon meat mixture into 4 wide bowls. Top each bowl with green onions, lettuce, tomatoes, and tortilla chips. If desired, serve with additional salsa and hot sauce.

Dairy-Free Chicken Curry Pizza


Many years ago, California Pizza Kitchen used to make a tandoori chicken pizza that I loved. It had a regular pizza crust, mozzarella cheese, and tomato sauce, but the toppings were Indian-inspired: tandoori chicken, onions, and cilantro.

If you’re a New York pizza snob like I used to be, you’re probably saying, “That’s not pizza!” True, but when you’ve been dairy-free as long as I have, you learn to broaden your definition of pizza.

I made a variation on the CPK pizza using Patak’s curry simmer sauce instead of pizza sauce, Daiya mozzarella style shreds instead of cheese, and Stonefire roasted garlic naan instead of pizza crust. These ingredients can be purchased at most supermarkets.


You can usually find read-to-use curry sauces in the international foods section. Patak’s makes several sauces that contain no dairy: Jalfrezi, Rogan Josh, Vindaloo, and Dopiaza. They range from mild to spicy.

The instructions on the jar will tell you to cook the chicken in the sauce, but I like to simmer the chicken in water because poaching keeps the meat moist and tender.


1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 jar Patak’s curry simmer sauce of your choice
1 package Stonefire roasted garlic naan (2 pieces)
1/2 cup Daiya mozzarella style shreds
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 tablespoon minced cilantro

Place chicken thighs in a saucepan and fill with enough cold water to cover chicken. Bring water to a boil, then lower heat and simmer chicken gently for 10 minutes. Remove chicken from water. Shred meat using two forks.

Drain water from saucepan. Pour Patak’s curry simmer sauce into pan and cook over medium heat until hot. Add shredded chicken and stir. Turn off heat.

Spoon chicken curry evenly onto two pieces of naan, spreading sauce to the edges. (You will have some leftover curry.) Sprinkle Daiya mozzarella style shreds over both pieces of naan. Top with sliced red onion.

Broil naan for 5 to 7 minutes, or until Daiya “cheese” is melted and edges of naan are browned. Remove from oven and sprinkle with minced cilantro. Makes 2 servings.

Steampunk Coffeebar & Kitchen


This gorgeous breakfast was from Steampunk Coffeebar & Kitchen in North Hollywood, a little café that’s easy to miss but hard to forget. When I lived in Burbank, I always had a hard time finding good breakfast joints. Now it seems like they’re popping up all over that part of the Valley.

Here’s what I love about Steampunk:

  • Delicious dairy-free options
  • Really good coffee
  • Three words: breakfast all day

I got the meal in the photo above at 2 p.m. on a Thursday. It’s their Egg In The Hole (a dish traditionally called “toad in the hole”), a slice of grilled sourdough bread with a fried egg cooked into a hole in the middle. It came with bacon and home fries on the side.

Everything about this dish was perfect. The egg was neither under- nor overcooked. The bread was hefty enough to support the egg and had just the right amount of sourness. The bacon was crispy, salty, and fatty — everything bacon should be. And the home fries were crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside; the bits of onion and bell pepper mixed in added a nice dimension.

And the almond milk latte I had was also excellent.


Nowadays, I’m seeing almond milk as a dairy alternative at a lot more coffee shops. This is progress. But not all lattes are created equal. You have to start with good coffee, and Steampunk does.

What’s interesting about Steampunk is that they have plenty of vegetarian, vegan and dairy-free options, but they’re not strictly a “health food” restaurant. For instance, their house specialty, The Stack, consists of buttermilk fried chicken, bacon, sunny-side-up egg, and Belgian waffles drizzled with cayenne maple aioli. That’s not what you would call a healthy dish, although it is served with sautéed kale and onions on the side.

But on the same menu as the chicken and waffles, you can also find healthy stuff like granola, a beet-and-carrot veggie burger, and a vegan porcini mushroom cutlet. Plus, ethnic foods like puri, an Armenian bread. It’s this eclectic menu that makes Steampunk rise above most coffee and breakfast joints.

They also have a nice inviting vibe. Don’t be scared off by the “steampunk” name. This small space feels warm and lived-in. The walls are adorned by eclectic art by local artists, most of which is for sale.


And they don’t care how long you linger at your table. It’s a great place to plug in your laptop and work, or hang out with friends and play a board game.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to play Smart Ass.

But I’d go back just for the Egg In The Hole and almond milk latte. For a lactose-intolerant breakfast enthusiast like myself, this place is a godsend.

STEAMPUNK COFFEEBAR & KITCHEN, 12526 Burbank Blvd., Valley Village, CA 91607