Monday, September 24, 2012

Dairy-Free Pumpkin Pie and Fall Recipes

Despite continued warm weather in the state of Oklahoma, which is typical for this time of year, I was in an exuberant autumn-ish mood yesterday. As BJ can well attest, often the nature of my mood is reflected in the meals that we eat that day. Average, content mood? You can expect pastas, goat-cheeseburgers, Mexican dishes, and other fairly normal meals. Stressed, unhappy, sad days? You might expect the likes of hot dogs, spaghetti, take-out, or fast food. Ridiculous, pregnant, tantrum moods? These are the times when BJ leaves the house and comes home with ice cream and Honey Nut Cheerios for me. But the days when I feel jubilant? Ah, these are when some of our family's greatest dishes have made their first appearances: pumpkin mac-n-cheese, creamy baked chicken taquitos, homemade tomato soup with cheese toasties, and of course desserts like Julia Child's "reine de saba," hand-packed Grasshopper ice cream cake, and chocolate peanut clusters. Yesterday was one such day, the day of the dairy-free pumpkin pie and the beer glazed sausage and apples.

Let's begin with the pumpkin pie, since I built it up on facebook. I must begin by saying that pumpkin pie is a certain addiction of mine. Sometime around the beginning of football season, the smells of the first pumpkin pie can be detected in our home, and this will continue long through January. It's my favorite pie of all. I do limit it to the fall and winter months, but I have no qualms about bringing this delicious gem to my table well before the Thanksgiving season. Why wait? So, the bummer is, nearly every pumpkin pie recipe I have ever seen calls for evaporated milk. Those that don't call for evaporated milk instead call for sweetened condensed milk (which, incidentally, I have tried and don't find to be as classic). Neither of these can be consumed in our house right now, so I'm left drumming my fingers concocting a solution. Some pumpkin pie recipes actually called for tofu, but hell-to-the-no! I don't do tofu, plus I can't have soy anyway because George is also sensitive to that. Just when I was starting to think all was lost, I stumbled across this recipe for dairy-free pumpkin pie by Alisa Fleming. It uses coconut milk instead of evaporated milk or other crazy substitutions. I bought two kinds of coconut milk, the one by Silk (also makes soy and almondmilk) and one from a can in the Asian aisle. After opening and tasting both, I ended up using the Silk variety because there were no clumps in it.
Looks normal enough, right? Well, it tastes normal and delicious too! Now, I know that my taste-buds are a little off these days because I haven't tasted actual dairy in almost six months, but I swear, I absolutely couldn't tell a difference. BJ, who consumed the pie with a glass of whole milk, said that he couldn't taste a difference either. His direct quote, "It was quite good." We agreed that we would scale back the cinnamon a bit; the recipe calls for a whole teaspoon so next time we'll go for half that. I say "next time" because I will certainly make this again with a glad heart; of the many beloved foods I won't be able to eat this holiday season, at least the best was spared.

Prior to the pumpkin pie, we also celebrated the coming of autumn with a delicious dinner found in this month's edition of Better Homes and Gardens. I would recommend signing up for a free on-line membership at their website,, as they have a history of great fall recipes. Seeing as how there will be no pumpkin mac-n-cheese this fall, which was our festive go-to last year, I knew I'd have to find something different. With the recipe of Beer Glazed Sausage and Apples, I do believe I found it. I have never been much of a pork eater myself, but Pete kindly convinced me a few weeks ago with his football kielbasa recipe, that perhaps I have prematurely judged this brand of sausage (on the other hand, breakfast sausage I won't touch with a ten-foot pole!). This recipe calls for kielbasa, and I stood in the store for two minutes racking my brain over which kind of kielbasa Pete used, but I found it in the end (it's also dairy-free, which is clearly a must). Basically, the recipe consists of kielbasa, apple slices, and fresh green beans sautéd and simmered in a glaze made from beer, brown sugar, cider vinegar, orange zest, and crushed red pepper. Butter is included as part of the recipe, but I obviously had to omit it. For sautéing I used a bit of olive oil, and for the glaze I just left it out completely. Sage leaves are sprinkled on top of the finished dish. It calls for a Belgian White or witbeer, but this wasn't possible for us. I shopped on Sunday morning, and we live in the antiquated state of Oklahoma where, not only are liquor stores closed on Sundays, but the sale of alcohol is prohibited everywhere before noon on Sunday (hmm, do you sense some religious influence here?). So we settled for a variety already in our fridge, which was Summer Honey brewed by Big Sky Brewing in Missoula, Montana. This meal was so delicious that we each got seconds and wanted thirds. Hearty, sweet, and filling, this meal was lovable on all counts. If you're feeding bland palates, I'd suggest cutting the red pepper and the sage out, and I would bet you have a winner.
Please note the gorgeous octopus bowl, which I drooled over for way too long at a kitchen boutique in Rockport with Sommer and her mom, and which Sommer secretly ordered for me the next morning as a surprise. I still smile just thinking about this story.

The dairy-free recipe trials will continue in our house. I'll keep you posted!

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