Just about anyone that knows me, knows that I enjoy eating, cooking and baking. If you come to my house, there is likely to be a fresh loaf of bread on the counter, a pot of jam bubbling on the stove, a curry simmering in the Crockpot. This is not just about putting food in my mouth. It is about creating, sharing, giving, playing. It is what I do.  It is a big part of who I am. (Yes, the pun is recognized.)

Most of my jobs prior to graduating from midwifery school were in the food industry. Unlike most of my female friends, I never worked as a waitress, but always in the back of the house: Grill cook, Line Chef, Sous Chef, Baker’s Assistant, Pastry Chef. Over the years, I held lots of jobs in lots of kitchen. I earned a living while learning many skills, playing with food and feeding folks while I traveled the long path to becoming a midwife.

Then there is my personal life. From the age of 10, I planned and executed the family meals. I left for college at the age of 16. I spent one painful semester on the cafeteria plan before opting out; I realized that I could create cheaper, fresher and tastier food in my dorm room (and avoid the awkward social scene of milling around with plastic trays). After graduation, apartment living, marriage and then motherhood changed my food prep and production milieu.

One constant over all these years was dairy. From time memorable, buttered toast and poached eggs has been my favorite breakfast. Burger or cheeseburger? Silly question! (Why not get the extra delicious, warm, gooey, cheesy one?) Cream in my coffee please. Quesadillas and salsa were the go-to dish when extra kids appeared after school. Apples and cheese an excellent grab-and-go snack. And then there is baking: in the last five decades, I have transformed literally hundreds of pounds of butter into cookies, cakes, breads, pastries, frosting…

Late this winter, at the persistent urging of my acupuncturist, my husband and I did a 10 Day Detox, eliminating sugar, dairy, all grains, starchy vegetables, alcohol, caffeine, beans, legumes and most fruit for 10 days. It was actually kinda fun: the 10 days served as a cooking challenge, like my own season of Chopped or Top Chef. Using a very limited tableau, I made tasty, nutritious meals and noticed some subtle changes. Over the week and a half, I sneezed less, my eyes didn’t burn or sting, there was definitely less burping (and other windy things), no cough drops were needed for that long-term tickle in the back of my throat. And, for the first time, I noticed air gently moving through my nose with every breath. (What a subtle and wonderful feeling. Who knew? Certainly not me. Turns out, you cannot know that you are missing what you have never had.)

After the 10 Day Detox, the plan is to reintroduce foods that were eliminated to see what might be an issue. My husband and I agreed that we wanted dairy back first. On day 11, I made a beautiful fluffy omelette filled with butter sautéed veggies, warm, gooey cheddar and melted Swiss cheese. It was delicious. While we savored our meal, my daughter asked the question “If you two had to give up all grains or dairy forever, which would you choose?” My husband and I both exclaimed “Grains! Give us dairy” About that time, my eyes started to itch and burn. And I sneezed. Then I sneezed again grabbing for a tissue.

The rest of the day, we continued with dairy in our meals. And I continued to itch, sneeze, rub at my eyes, blow my nose… As I reached for yet another tissue, then for my homeopathic eye drops to relive painful irritated eyes, I silently screamed “No. No. No!” And I knew that yes, I was having histamine reactions to dairy in my diet, that I probably had been having this reaction all my life. Bummer. (Read: “Really, really, really big bummer.)

So after some pouting, I moved on to the next season of my own cooking challenge which I have titled #whoneedsbutter. (The ‘who needs butter’ is an obvious attempt at stiff upper lip. The hashtag is simply because my daughter told me once to never, ever use hashtags.) So, as my journey unfolds, you can look to this blog for occasional, original and delicious recipes that are dairy-free (and yes that means butter-free).

Today, my present to you is Vanilla Yum; it is vanilla ice cream without the cream. This is a dairy-free, coconut-based frozen dessert. It is creamy, delicious and tasty in a bowl by itself. It is divine with fresh strawberries and a sprinkle of rum. It will be perfect on warm peach cobbler or apple crisp. Enjoy!

May all babies be born into loving hands


Vanilla Yum
A dairy-free, coconut-based frozen dessert

1 can full fat, high quality coconut milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon good vanilla*
Tiny pinch of good salt

Add coconut milk and sugar to a small sauce pan. Heat on low and stir gently until coconut fat is melted and sugar is dissolved.

Beat egg, egg yolk and vanilla together. Turn off heat and pour egg mixture into warm coconut milk. Add the pinch of salt. Stir gently to incorporate. (Be quick here. Don’t let the eggs curdle)

Pour into a glass jar and place into fridge to chill. This will take at least 2 hours.

Process like any ice cream. (Follow these links for suggestions on processing ice cream: machine, old-fashioned crank, machine-free. At my house, I use a Cuisinart Ice Cream maker).

Place in air tight container and freeze.

Serve. Eat. Enjoy!


*That is not a typo. I actually mean one tablespoon, not one teaspoon. The ‘extra’ vanilla just works well in this recipe, making it a vanilla flavored dessert and not a coconut flavored one. And use REAL vanilla, maybe even a Bourbon Vanilla. Your tastebuds will thank you.