Dairy-free

Rosemary Almond Crackers
Rosemary Almond Crackers
So-and-so can't touch gluten. Whatshisface is allergic to eggs. Dairy gives Thing-gummy a rash. And Hoojicky? Garlic sensitivity. Happy Holidays, indeed. I feel for you. I do. Having been on both sides of this equation (I have played the role of allergic guest and accommodating host over the years) I feel for all parties. Unfortunately, it's very hard to find a recipe everyone can eat, let alone will gobble. Sorry, but not matter how many times you suggest tofu pudding, I'm not going for it. Given the scope of food allergies and sensitivities, I have decided finding the perfect party food is downright impossible. But I've come close. This recipe from Superfood Kitchen by Julie Morris (Sterling Epicure, 2012)  is egg-free, soy-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, transfat-free and dairy-free. Yet this cracker is not flavour- or texture-free. It's pleasant on its own and plays nicely with almost any savoury dip you throw at it. And if that isn't enough, it also provides me with an opportunity to use my fancy dehydrator again. Win-win or what?
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Words of Wisdom from Chef Michael Smith and Bacon Candy
Eleven minutes and ten seconds into our half-hour interview, Chef Michael Smith uttered the most honest, excuse-free cooking advice I've heard in a long time.
I don't have much patience for those who say they can't cook. A hundred thousand generations have cooked. It's a very easy thing to do. Suck it up, buttercup. You can do it!
Oh, I'd love to put Smith and Chris Kimball in a room together and see who emerges unbruised. My bets are on Smith —and not just because he's 6' 7". He just makes more sense. To support my prediction, compare these quotes from my wide-ranging interview with Chef Michael Smith against Kimball's no-partying-allowed approach ("Cooking isn’t creative, and it isn’t easy. It’s serious, and it’s hard to do well, just as everything worth doing is damn hard.")
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Fig and Olive Tapenade
Fig and Olive Tapenade  - TheMessyBaker.com I almost feel like I'm cheating on this one. It's far too easy to be this tasty. But on second thought, it's a perfect illustration of Eric Akis's approach to food. It delivers what he calls "obtainable goodness", is suitable for all levels of cooks, and uses ingredients you can find at the average supermarket. It's also addictive, although I don't think that's part of his mandate. This recipe is from Eric's seventh book, Everyone Can Cook Everything (Whitecap 2012), a compendium of his first six. As I struggle to get the manuscript of my first cookbook completed, it's really hard not to hate him. But one taste of the tapenade and all's forgiven.
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The Inside Scoop on Black Bean Quinoa Burgers
Black Bean Quinoa Burger – TheMessyBaker.com When you meet with the author of a cookbook, you're often given insights not found in the final print edition — like how they spent most of their time at college scribbling recipe ideas in their binder instead of taking lecture notes, or which of the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of recipes to try first. I was lucky enough to catch up with Camilla V. Saulsbury last month and talk to her about her new book, 500 Best Quinoa Recipes (Robert Rose, 2012). While no one had heard of quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) a few years ago, this seed-that-eats-like-a-grain is everywhere:  in cookbooks, granola, breakfast flakes, and baked goods. It's gluten-free, high-protein, low-fat and much more approachable than its odd name suggests. It's not gummy or stodgy like some wild grains. It's crunchy without being hard. And best of all, it's easy to cook. From someone who never cottoned onto tofu despite sincere, diverse and repeated attempts, trust me when I say quinoa is worth a try.
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Preserving tomatoes regardless of quantity
How to preserve tomatoes regardless of quantity – TheMessyBaker.com Clearly, my tomatoes aren't getting enough love. When my back was turned, they  produced and produced and produced — to the point they toppled over and smothered the Swiss chard. Lying on the ground, they continued the fight. Not only did they produce more fruit, they romped all over the basil and trampled what was going to be fennel. Injuries to either party be damned. See the red tomato in the middle? It split its side in an effort to work its way to my kitchen door. In my defense the zucchini was rather distracting — all 302 pounds of it. Plus I am a bit busy working on my book. When I finally ventured out to the jungle garden, I was met by eager orange, red and yellow tomatoes. They practically leapt into my arms. The poor watermelon just lay there and whimpered. Shush now. All in good time. All in good time. How to perserve tomatoes regardless of quantity – TheMessyBaker.com
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Spirited Fruit (and Sangria)
Spirited fruit preserves - TheMessyBaker.com I am not to be trusted. I head to the Farmers' Market with a clearly written list and rock solid resolve. And what do I return with? Way more items than intended and a feeling of panic. Where will I store all these plums? When will I have time to make pear jam? Should I freeze, can or hide the peaches? Of course, things fall apart when I toss tomatoes designated for preserving into a salad or gobble a handful of blueberries because they are too perfect for anything else but in-the-moment indulgence. You cannot imagine my relief -- your maybe you can-- when I stumbled up  a couple of preserving methods that are as flexible on quantity as I am about my shopping list. The methods are outlined in the ever-so-handy Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (Robert Rose ©2012).
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Tempura Zucchini
The zucchinis just keep coming. So I pulled out the big guns and fried the suckers in hot oil. None of this namby-pamby healthy oven-baked stuff. I went deep fried all the way. And I think I just might have scared them off. To shake things up a bit, I used a tempura batter and a spicy dipping sauce. I got the batter ratio from Michael Ruhlman's Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking (Scribner ©2009). While tempura is far from everyday in my world,  it is an effective way to use up the zucchini that arrives in relentless waves like zombies. It is also messy. Not only did I get batter all over the stove and counter, my shoes and hair somehow got into the act. By the time I'd used up all the batter, I looked like I'd lost a paintball match.
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What to Do with Less-than-Perfect Peaches: Peach Sorbet
Peach Sorbet is dairy-free, gluten-free and delicious - TheMessyBaker.com The other day I posted about fruit leather (aka fruit roll-ups), which is an easy way to use up fruit that's no longer ready for its close-up. Whether you make it in an oven or dehydrator, the method is embarrassingly easy. Just blend, pour, then abandon for hours on end. It's ideal for lazy people like me. And the results are quite possibly addictive. Just ask my sister. The astute reader will notice that I had more peaches on hand than a couple sheets of fruit leather required. And you'd be correct. I had enough on-the-cusp peaches for a batch of  peach sorbet. Clean, refreshing peach sorbet. See, it's already beginning to melt in the heat. 
Peach and Ginger Fruit Leather - The Messy Baker
What to Do with Less-Than-Perfect Peaches – Fruit Leather

[caption id="attachment_8131" align="alignnone" width="500"] You don't need a dehydrator to make fruit roll-ups, but if you're looking for an excuse to buy one, these will seal the deal.[/caption] What do you do when you have less-than-perfect peaches squatting on your counter, threatening to dissolve into a...

Indian Green Beans
Indian Green Beans
Handful of green beans - TheMessyBaker.com I don't know if there are the Fortex pole beans or the Maxibel French filet beans. I suspect they are a mix. I can't tell because the vines are so thick the leaves obscure the labels. Plus, I was too busy picking beans to bother looking. Regardless of their official name, these are the first crop of beans from my section of  The Family Plot. Back in May, I planted them with one recipe in mind. Today I got to make it. A few months ago, Monica Bhide made me a variation of her Green Beans Subzi, a spicy vegetable dish with lots of flavour and crunch. She strayed from the version in her cookbook Modern Spice, and added coconut chips for extra crunch because she knows I like texture.  Since that meal, I have searched for coconut chips and come up empty handed. Unable to locate this ingredient, I substituted extra large coconut flakes. They aren't exactly the same, but I'm not about to complain.

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