If you had asked me ten years ago “What are two foods that you could not live without?” I would have answered bread and cheese. Yet here I am, after spending my last three years with constant digestive issues, avoiding gluten (everything made from wheat, rye, and barley) and dairy (cheese, ice cream, milk). Is it a sacrifice? Sometimes. Mainly when we’re eating out or at a party. Is it worth it? Absolutely. I do not miss the painful cramps or the uncomfortable, tight waistband that made me look and feel three months pregnant. Gratefully though, I have discovered an entire world of products and recipes full of flavor and indulgence that abates any longing for my past culinary desires.
My two latest brand obsessions that I recently discovered are Udi Gluten Free Breads and So Delicious Coconut Milk. The bakers at the Udi company based in Denver, Colorado, have created a tasty line of bread, bagels, pizza crust, muffins, sweet rolls and more. After trying many varieties of store-bought gluten free bread (most of them from the frozen food section) Udi far and above surpasses other brands with a product that has a fresh, soft, light texture and tastes closer to my former life than anything else I’ve eaten. Bravo Udi! It is a bit on the pricey side (close to $6 for a loaf of bread), but again, well worth the cost (there’s a $1-off coupon available on their web site). Udi brands are also dairy and nut free, an added bonus for food allergy sufferers.
There are so many wonderful qualities of So Delicious Coconut Milk it’s something I think everyone would benefit drinking even if dairy doesn’t affect you. Other than being dairy and soy free (an excess amount of soy may disrupt hormone balances), it’s low in calories (just 50 per serving) and sugar (the unsweetened variety has 0 grams), is fortified with 10% of the Daily Recommended Allowance (DRA) of calcium, vitamin A and magnesium; 30% DRA of vitamin D, and 50% DRA of vitamin B12 (click here to see benefits of vitamin B12). Although the label reads 5 grams of saturated fat, it is mostly a special, healthier version of saturated fat (yes, there is such a thing) called “medium chain fatty acids (M.C.F.A.s). These “healthier” fats are not easily stored in the body, but burned as energy instead. Plus, all the ingredients are non-genetically modified, often organic, and the So Delicious parent company, Turtle Mountain, applies strict quality control methods to eliminate non-declared food allergens. Even though the Food and Drug Administration recently declared coconut as part of the tree nut family, it is usually not a problem for those allergic to tree nuts as it is distantly related (please check with your allergist to confirm this is right for you). So Delicious makes a plethora of coconut milk products including drinking milk, coffee creamer, yogurt, and ice cream. The French vanilla coconut coffee creamer and unsweetened drinking milk are my personal favorites.
With all that said, here’s a breakfast I thought I would never enjoy again — French Toast. To my delight, this recipe is such a treat I barely remember that it is gluten and dairy free when I savor every last bite. Born and raised in Kentucky, I am very partial to anything with bourbon. If you like a strong bourbon flavor (like I do) feel free to add a tablespoon to this recipe. Though, for most who may prefer a more subtle flavor, stick with 2 teaspoons for this single serving. Because the gluten free Udi bread slices are small (about 4 inches square) this recipe will make four pieces of French Toast. If you’re feeding a larger party than just one, multiply recipe as needed. While hot, I highly recommend topping with dairy free margarine (I used Earth Balance brand), and warmed, REAL Vermont maple syrup. Perhaps it was my time living in Vermont in my early 20s that did it, but I have become a bit of a maple syrup snob. The Log Cabin “maple flavored” corn syrup that I grew up on now makes me cringe. Yes, again, the real thing is not cheap, but you don’t drink it like water. A little goes a long way and you may just reach nirvana when tasting it paired with the bourbon and vanilla. A dusting of powdered sugar is a fantastic finish as well.
Vanilla, Bourbon French Toast*
GLUTEN & DAIRY FREE
1 egg (preferably organic)
1/4 cup So Delicious unsweetened coconut milk
2 teaspoons real vanilla extract (better quality = better flavor)
2 teaspoons of your favorite brand Kentucky bourbon
a sprinkle of cinnamon (optional)
4 slices of Udi gluten free bread
1. Whisk all ingredients together in a wide, shallow bowl.
2. Coat bread in the egg mixture allowing it enough time to soak it up a bit like a sponge.
3. Cook slowly over a pre-heated, not stick skillet, at medium heat for about 3-5 minutes per size (or until lightly browned and egg mixture begins to cook all the way through the bread). Flipping with a thin, off-set spatula helps.
4. Serve warm with dairy free margarine and maple syrup. Dust with powdered sugar (optional). Garnish with berries.
* Of course, if gluten and dairy are not an issue, feel free to replace with wheat bread and milk.
© 2011 tricia barry biagi