Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The GFCF Review Experience: Go Dairy Free by Alisa Fleming

Alisa Fleming is someone I have known since I started blogging in 2007. In fact, she was one of the first readers of my blog! Since then, I have come to know Alisa as the definitive resource for all things dairy free, through her Go Dairy Free website. I also feel fortunate to consider her a friend.

This Christmas, "Santa" left Alisa's book, Go Dairy Free, for me under the tree. Amazing how he knew exactly what I wanted for Christmas!!! After eagerly flipping through the pages since then, I wanted to share with you my thoughts about the book:

Buy it!

How's that for being short and sweet!

Okay, here's a little more detail. But before that, some disclaimers:

  • This is a dairy free book, and while Alisa often mentions other allergies and intolerances in the book, it is not geared directly for those who are gluten free. Some of the recipes in the book use gluten containing ingredients as written (which, of course, you can always sub out gluten free ingredients when you make them, like I will). Alisa has told me she is considering testing everything gluten free for the next edition, and I wholeheartedly support this idea. In fact, Jules Shepard at Jules Gluten Free recently talked about how many people with celiac disease also find they need to eliminate dairy as well in this post.

  • It's also important to remember that while dairy free for Alisa also means casein free, this is not always the case in reality. Many so-called dairy free products, especially amongst the dairy free cheeses, still contain casein in some form or another. Alisa points this out repeatedly in the book, and it again underscores the need to read all labels and call the manufacturer to make certain the product is casein free.

Now, on to the book!

First and foremost, I will tell you what I think this book is not - it's not a cookbook. Yes, it contains over 225 recipes that are just waiting for me to try. But this is not a cookbook - in fact, you have to go through 12 chapters before you get to the first recipe!

This is a guidebook; a desk reference to all things dairy free. Alisa starts by decoding many different types of milk on the market before tackling the different type of milk allergies, intolerances, and other reasons why people may need or choose a dairy free diet (including autism and ADHD). Concerned about calcium? Alisa has a great list of calcium-rich foods as well as some surprising (to me) info about the relationship between calcium and strong bones. She also discusses whether soy may be a good option for you, and the presence of milk in things like skincare products, supplements, and medications.

One of my favorite parts of the book is what Alisa calls Around the World in 80 Restaurants (give or take). Here, Alisa looks at different types of restaurant cuisines and discusses what, in general, may be safe to eat and what to avoid. She also looks at dairy free and fast food restaurants, and helpful tips for eating at friends houses, on the road, and for kids at school and at friend's parties.

In talking about shopping dairy free, Alisa talks about foods that, for the most part, are considered dairy free, as well as, once again, reading labels and decoding their meaning. I also found interesting her discussion of the meaning of kosher and parve designations. Want to have a dairy free pantry? Alisa has you covered.

What follows this is an extensive section on dairy substitutes, including recipes to make different types of dairy free milk (soy, hemp, coconut, etc.). I love her section on butters and oils, which includes charts of different smoke points for oils and what they are best used for in cooking. Then there's a section on cheese substitutes - great information as cheese, to me, is one of the most challenging dairy products in terms of substitutions. Alisa discusses other dairy free alternatives for things like heavy cream and half and half, and, even though they are not considered dairy, Alisa talks about egg substitutes as well.

Finally, after all this, we get to the recipe section. Alisa includes dairy free recipes for breakfasts, smoothies, soups, salads, entrees, sides, breads,...and on and on. Note again that many of these recipes do contain gluten, so substitutions will need to be made to make them GFCF. But Alisa helps there too - in the back of the book is a great appendix identifying some common food allergens in each recipe, as well as whether or not each recipe is vegan.

Alisa ends her book with a section on additional resources she recommends - online websites and online/offline resources for not just dairy free information, but other things like vegan information and other food allergies. She even gives a shout out to Yours Truly in her section on GFCF resources. (thanks Alisa!)

See what I mean? This is a desktop reference for all things dairy free. But it's portable as well! Go Dairy Free is available for your iPad or Kindle - check out the Go Dairy Free website for details!

Needless to say, I highly recommend this book. It will become an essential part of your dairy free kitchen.


Jules said...

Very helpful posting Thomas! I'll definitely have to check into Alisa's book! Please post a comment with trackback to this posting on my article you reference on "Making Sense of Milk" - I think my readers would appreciate information on this book as well!

Alisa Fleming said...

Wow Thomas! Thank you so much, you made my day (make that week!). What a seriously thorough review ... for you, the next edition must have gluten-free alternatives for the recipes!