And Now For Something (Not-So) Completely Different – A ‘Free-From’ Dunking Experience
Let me level with you friends - I am a bit of a food enthusiast. I can’t help it- I have an innate curiosity, which has led to a lot of research and reading about different diets, cultures and culinary experiences (and yeah- a lot of eating). In our current world, there are SO many options to learn about and try. Yet I find, it is within the past 12-18 months that I’ve heard more and more about the world of plant based proteins and alternative diets. Spend one day on my social media feed, it’s clear our eating patterns and habits have changed for a number of reasons:
- the popularity of diets that encourage going ‘back to basics’ like paleo and the Whole 30
- the growing voice of consumers who are looking for ways to promote healthier and cruelty free conditions in the food and agriculture industries
- the ever-expanding ‘free-from’ and plant based options being introduced by large/more mainstream manufacturers
- simply meeting more folks who, for one reason or another, choose an animal alternative diet and lifestyle, be it for religious, allergy, or weight-loss reasons
As I was regularly seeing and hearing about these trends both personally and professionally, I was intrigued enough to find out more about plant-based and animal-free alternatives and recipes.
As I started branching out, I kept it safe: veggie burgers, cauliflower or Portobello mushroom ‘steaks’, and meatless crumbles. I surprisingly happily found I really enjoyed these food swaps in my lunches and dinners. I won’t lie though – I still avoided vegan/’dairy and egg free’ dessert options. I mean, I grew up baking out of the Good Housekeeping cookbooks from the 70s…. the thought of not using an egg or butter in a cookie or a cake was horrifying hard for me to understand (remember my initial reaction to my gluten free experience? If not, read more about it here).
It happened though - curiosity got the best of me through the baking newsletters I follow, which featured more recipes calling for replacements to dairy, milk and eggs. Friends and family members were switching out their traditional snack and baking staples for new products. Even Betty Crocker started providing alternatives to traditional recipes, like this one for vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies. True story: they are just as easy/quick to make as any recipe you may have grown up with, and while they may not taste exactly the same as your traditional cookies, they have an outstanding flavor and texture all of their own. Don’t have the time to bake? No problem! I found the Enjoy Life brand has a fantastic selection of delicious cookies in ALL varieties. I highly recommend the Soft Baked Double Chocolate Brownie cookies - major OMG experience! So, with a little bit of recipe searching and checking local grocery stores, my cookie options had been satisfied on this stretch of the alternative diet journey – YES!
However, soon after my dunking conundrum then began. The thought of drinking milk that didn’t come from a cow was confusing. As many nay-sayers have touted and joked, how do you milk an almond or a soy bean? The words plant-based milk just made no sense to me; and quite frankly, I love dairy milk! I love the texture, the flavor, the versatility of it – to me, I could not figure out how anything could ever measure up. But I had come this far on my snack expedition - I was going to see this through! After a detailed taste-testing and cookie pairing process, I come to you now because I found it really is true - there is a milk alternative out there that anyone could enjoy. A handy resource that I used is this article from Eat This, Not That: Best and Worst Milk Alternatives. It does a fantastic job of explaining the pros, cons, and applications for different types of plant-based milks. So far, my personal alternative favorites to pair with my Dunking Buddy are coconut milk (in small doses only because it can be very rich) and vanilla soy milk. I switch up the milk depending on the cookie I am enjoying at the time and the flavor profile I want in the moment (and I still go back to my dairy milk roots), but no matter what the cookie or the milk, I have to say, Dunking Buddy never lets me down. Even with those delicious Soft Baked treats from Enjoy Life, my cookies stay intact, my fingers stay dry and my snack enjoyment only increases! Variety truly is the spice of life – especially with regards to cookies!
But now dear reader- I really want to know- what do YOU think? Any experiences to share with ‘free-from’ desserts? Have a tip or suggestion to share for choosing plant based milks? Leave us a comment below- I would love to hear from you!!
Jean Marie McCormick is a Stamford resident, with a piece of her heart permanently residing in the Bronx. She is a full-time market researcher, part-time thespian, and lifelong fan of cookies and milk. She lives with her dog-daughter Emma and looks forward to sharing more cookie adventures!