Sunday, January 12, 2014


Have you ever been 'dis-invited' to a dinner party?

We were this week and I'll admit to being somewhat relieved. In our new neighborhood there has been a move to form dinner groups for Sunday evenings when the Club dining hall is closed. Once a month, responding to a 'Paperless Post' invitation a select committee assigns respondents to a host/house. We were assigned to Host-Most-Chef who submitted a menu from hell. Now the Mister got excited because it meant a social evening of dining with neighbors and meeting new people; except he doesn't do the cooking. My idea of a social evening is that the host offers a loosely defined menu and the guests bring a pot-luck-style dish that may or may not be totally authentic cuisine. That was not Host-Most-Chef's idea, the recipes submitted included a soup, meat dish with a roux-based sauce, potatoes, side cabbage dish and dessert with ice cream (Germanic-style dinner). The problem is I no longer eat dairy, roux based anything is not for me, no ice cream and I did not know what the soup might contain; what to offer? We offered to take salad greens for a simple vinaigrette dressing IF the Chef could use soy-based butter-substitute and we would take a non-dairy frozen vegan-ice-cream.

After DH objected to my mis-managing, after a few terse e-mails and modifying recipes to reduce calories, saturated fats and carbs; we were asked to decline the dinner. DH hasn't recovered yet. Not really appreciating the label "Pit Bull" of dining that HMC assigned to me, I am not really sorry. There was a down side but also an upside. Namely I went shopping to look for vegan products in the local market and did some Internet searching to learn more. And I found a lot.

First item to replace was cream and not being a fan of those powdered coffee creamers I queried Google about cream substitutes (or else just not make cream-based dishes??). First I found a product never before seen, the Mimic Creme product that got rave reviews. Except: Mimic Creme is no longer available for retail distribution (?). Why? Perhaps the FDA has more information.

Undaunted I looked on and found that Silk Soy (same as Silk Soy Vanilla milk), now markets a creamer SilkSoy Creamer that works for me. Richer than the vanilla milk (240 calories vs. 100 calories/cup), the creamer has a silky taste and would work for cream in most instances. Plus it comes in three flavors but so far I have only tasted Original. How long as this been going on or perhaps Harris Teeter just picked it up? Great addition to my morning non-caffeine, cafe-latte with non-dairy creamer. Maybe I am going to the extreme?

Continuing with the search for butter replacements, coconut oils were considered. Found a curious package of Kelapo Baking Sticks on the market shelf and began to wonder about cooking with coconut. My experience with coconut milk was an underlying coconut taste (my preference - vanilla), besides the health news about coconut oil remains divided. Googling Kelapo to search their products  the web site addressed my main concern: coconut or olive oil?

  • The question must be answered, which is healthier for me: olive oil or coconut oil cooking? Well the answer isn’t clear cut. Both coconut oil and olive oil contain 120 calories per tablespoon. All of the calories in both oils come from fats. Neither of the oils contain trans fat or cholesterol. The one glaring difference is the saturated vs unsaturated fat contents. Saturated fat was once considered bad for you but research is now being conducted to suggest that plant-based saturated fats, like coconut oil, may not have the same negative effects of animal based saturated fats, like butter. 

So I picked up a tub of Earth Balance brand 'buttery' spread to try and I also picked up a carton of Earth Balance's 'organic coconut spread' prepared for baking and cooking. I have been a fan of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter brand. Reading the label you will find that ICBINB does contain a small amount of whey derivatives but very little. Eating buttered toast has been gone from my daily diet for a long time so the whey issue is not major but I will try a new brand to assess flavor.  Now I will compare at least three butter-replacement products.

  • Did you know that movie-theater popcorn used coconut oil w/beta carotene added to simulate butter-flavor? Just another interesting fact found in the Kelapo FAQs. 

After swim practice this morning I realized how blessed I am for a) not cooking for an over-indulgent dinner party menu; and b) gathered more nutritional info and have new products to taste and test. Still there is DH to contend with; he's a bit grumpy and disappointed but his cholesterol test will thank me.

Finally the last word is about the social need to mix and find friends being confused with giving yourself a pass to pig-out on heavy dinners because 'everyone else' is doing so. Personal dietary concerns are not about being the obstinate dinner guest but about feeling good and enjoying a healthy lifestyle. The confusion begins when pressure to conform increases -why should I drink too much and overeat just to relax with friends and expand our social network? If your social life depends on under cutting your health, maybe there's something wrong with this picture.
That's just my thought for the day……..

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