When I first met Laila in Chicago at a food bloggers conference (well, actually heard her speak into a mic to ask a question in front of hundreds and hundreds of people) my first thoughts were depth and courage. Now after hearing her story I know, not only does she possess these qualities but she breathes and lives by them!
Food is more than fuel for a lot of us; but when your entire life is flipped upside down and eating means life or death, you adapt ..right? Meet Laila who’s fearless and courageous in the kitchen, as she shares her whole new world of food with all of us!
I’m very excited to introduce Laila from ‘No Dairy No Cry’, her story, and her allergy free baking and cooking with all of you.
Who: Laila Sbeinati
Occupation: Food Blogger, Adult English as a Second Language (ESL) Teacher/Stay-at-home mama.
Where: London, Ontario
Bio: When she isn’t teaching, Laila’s a stay-at-home Mom to a 6 year old boy and a 2 year old girl, both of whom suffer from severe food allergies to different things; her son to dairy and beef and her daughter to cashews and eggs. Homemade meals are therefore such an integral part of her family’s life. As a result, No Dairy No Cry was born and she dedicates much of her time to the blog to ensure that other parents, caregivers, and any individual with allergies have options available to them to make simple, allergen-friendly meals. Laila has made it her mission to make delicious, healthy, and most importantly, kid-approved meals and desserts for all to enjoy.
1. Where did the name ‘No Dairy No Cry” come from? I knew I needed a catchy name that spoke to anyone coming across my site. While brushing my teeth one morning, I had Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry song in my head from the night before, and I don’t know how it came to me, but I replaced woman with dairy and sang that line like 50 times! I loved it so much, I told my husband that I’d finally decided on my name! So, No Dairy No Cry was born and the rest is history as they say. 🙂
No Dairy No Cry started out as a dairy free blog but upon learning about my daughter’s severe egg and cashew allergies, my blog encompasses recipes that are also free from her allergens as well as many more gluten free and other allergen-free recipes.
2. How long have you been cooking and baking with no dairy? I’ve been doing that for 5 years and counting. Our home is free from my kids’ allergens. I become easily paranoid when it comes to what food touched me or in my kitchen, so there’s no sense in worrying and driving myself crazy trying to remember and constantly be in a state of fear.
3. What food/product do you miss most since you’ve had to adjust to no dairy? To be honest, I can’t think of anything that I truly miss at this point. Although I will say that I had always loved dairy. I would have 3 bowls of cereal a day, snacked on yogurt, and absolutely loved cheese. Cheese makes everything taste better, in my opinion.
4. What food/product are you surprised you love and wish you’d known about before? It would most definitely have to be the dairy-free/allergen-friendly cheeses by Daiya and Follow Your Heart/Earth Islands (Canada) brands. They’ve managed to replicate the taste of cheese in a way I don’t think I’ll ever understand but am equally thankful for their existence. Making a cheese-less pizza isn’t appealing at all (it doesn’t even sound right) – my son hated it in fact and who could blame him? Especially when he’d see his peers at birthday parties enjoying every oozing cheesy bite of their pizza slice, and then there was my kid’s homemade version, sans cheese. That’s the thing, kids crave assimilation; most of us do. No one wants to feel like they’re the odd one out, and when it comes to children, that is even more important to their social development. So discovering these brands was a Godsend for me and my family.
5. What are your challenges and or limitations with cooking and baking without dairy? I’d say having to figure out how to make dairy-free buttermilk and cream. But now that I’m much more comfortable experimenting, I’d now say that a challenge for me isn’t so much the dairy as it is eggs. Figuring out how to make meringues, custards, and macaroons without using eggs is a different level of baking. Having said that, using no eggs in a recipe is a welcomed challenge. 🙂 It makes being in the kitchen that much more interesting. I was finally able to perfect a meringue cookie without eggs! So my next challenge is to make delicious custard like the stuff my mom used to make for me and my siblings all the time. I’ll let you know how that goes!
6. What were/are your personal challenges having to change your food habits for your children? I love nothing more than being a mother to my two little munchkins – they are my world (I think any parent would relate to this statement). So giving up my favourite foods and my favourite nuts was quite effortless. Of course I say this now, but at the beginning, it was so difficult having to adjust to what was normal to me. It’s the convenience factor that I had to get accustomed to more than anything. But it also didn’t take long to figure out alternatives. I eat exactly like them, so I’m also dairy-egg-beef-cashew-pistachio free. Personally, I can’t stomach the idea of making separate dinners for me and my husband and something else for my kids – aside from the paranoia factor. We eat together as a family, and my two are always eating off of our plates. So could you imagine having to tell them, ‘no don’t touch this,” or ‘you can’t have what’s on my plate’? I can’t do it. Our home is also my children’s home. It’s the one place where they can open the fridge and cupboards and eat whatever they want, without ever needing to ask whether something was ok for them to have. It’s their safe haven, and I’m so proud that we as a family all eat as if we share all of their allergies. It’s an inclusive environment and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I get a smile on my face any time I hear my son say to his friends that his mother and father also have the same allergies. It’s very innocent. 🙂
7. What is your favourite dish (that you’ve had to alter or change) and why? I used to use butter and margarine in many recipes before the allergy days, but now my main sources of healthy fats are extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil. A frequented dish at home is hands down my Roast Chicken Legs – we love it so much and using the oil allows the skin to crisp up nicely and create a seal for the chicken to come out nice and tender every time.
8. Who did you look to for support while discovering your children’s allergies? Without a doubt, my husband. He’s been my rock throughout this whole journey of ours. It was a shock initially and I felt lost and out of control of my environment – it’s such an uncomfortable place to be in. It was a dark time in my life but thanks to him, I was able to look past the allergies and the colitis and move forward in a positive manner. I honestly don’t know what I would’ve done if it hadn’t been for him by my side.
9. What is your go to recipe that everyone in the family loves? Hands down, it’s my Peanut Butter Cups. My family, friends, and everyone who’s had them absolutely loves them. And they’re so easy to make!
Laila’s Top Subsitutions for Allergy Free Baking and Cooking!
10. What are the best substitutes for; milk, cream, etc. You’re going to love this! I have a few favourite brands that are readily available to you at your local (major) grocery/health food stores:
Enjoy Life Brand – chocolate chips, chocolate bars. They have a slew of other products out there but I mainly buy their chocolate chips for baking.
Silk Almond Milk and Creamer – I buy their milks (almond base only) and their milk is a great substitute for animal milk. Their creamer is nice too because it’s thicker so you could use it in place of homogenized milk, for example.
So Delicious – creamer, whipped cream, ice cream. This brand has a ton of products out there also. I discovered recently that they have a ‘whipped cream’ tub, and it’s fantastic for last minute dessert making calling for whipped cream, or to serve along side some fresh fruit.
Aroy-D coconut Milk – This is my preferred and the only coconut milk brand I use. I love it because all it contains is coconut and water. Most of the coconut-based milks contain carrageenan, which is a soy derivative that we do our best to stay away from because it is a known contributor to gastro inflammation. I use this milk in my baking because the results are creamy and moist, and it’s also safe to bring to school if I’m baking something for them. Your best luck to find this brand of milk (it can be hard to find) is at your local major Asian supermarket. I always find them there. 🙂
Earth Island/Follow Your Heart – cheese slices, Veganaise. Their mozzarella style cheese slices are bang on when compared to dairy mozzarella and is best for sandwiches. Their Veganaise product (vegan mayo) is unbelievably tasty, even more so than regular mayo! And it’s great for some recipes that require eggs for baking.
Daiya – for their shredded ‘cheeses’. Great for pizzas and any recipe that calls for cheese. Their products stretch and melt just like the dairy versions. I made a Vegan Knafeh which is a Middle-Eastern dessert that requires a certain type of cheese, but using Daiya’s mozzarella shreds did the trick!
11. Did you find a big cost difference when you had to change over to no dairy? There’s definitely a price difference felt for us now that we shop in the natural food aisles. Most of my ingredients and products are also organic and GMO free if organic isn’t available. So we’ve had to adjust our spending habits and dedicate more of our income to food, but you can’t put a price on your health right?!
12. What do you think is most misunderstood about cooking and baking allergy free? I think there’s a misnomer that allergen-free cooking and baking entails making boring and bland meals. I’ve come across a number of times where people were reluctant to try my foods at first because of the ingredients used but quickly had a change of heart and embraced everything they’d tried. I think you have to be adventurous and try new things and see what you like and don’t like. It’s kind of fun to do that. It broadens your palate and makes you appreciate everything in life that much more … or that could just be my thinking.
- ½ c vegan butter
- 2 c organic sugar
- 1½ tbsp chia seeds, whole
- 3 tbsp warm water
- 1¾ c flour
- ¾ c cocoa powder
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 c brewed coffee
- 1 c coconut milk, or dairy free milk of choice
- 1 tsp vinegar
- Preheat oven to 350F and line muffin/cupcake tins/pans with cupcake liners. Set aside.
- Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- In a measuring cup, measure out the milk and add to that the vinegar. Stir and set aside. This step sours the milk and is a fantastic substitute for buttermilk!
- Using a stand mixer or a hand mixer with the paddle attachment, start by working the vegan butter alone until smooth, then add sugar and beat on high for several minutes, until well incorporated.
- While the mixer is going, add chia seeds in a small bowl with the warm water, mix, and allow it to become gelatinous. This will only take about a minute. Add chia mix to sugar mix and continue beating until fully combined.
- Turn mixer to low, and add half of the dry mix to the sugar mix. Stir until combined.
- Next, add the soured milk and continue to beat until incorporated.
- Finish off with the other half of the dry mix and continue to mix.
- Finally, add brewed coffee and mix until just combined. Do not over mix!
- Fill cupcake liners with batter, about ½ to ¾ way to the top, and bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven, let cool and enjoy.