This is a blog from the archives that I wrote about a year ago. Interestingly, although I stand by everything that I said back then, very much in line with my husband’s more in-depth exposé “Milk Manifesto” (it’s a great article, I highly recommend it!), my conclusion to “take it” is much more moderate than it had been back then.
My own preference has become more of the “leave it for the most part when you can” camp (long adjective, but I mean it quite sincerely!) as I use dairy much less in my current recipes than I used to! My shift stems from my concerns for the environmental impact of the global dairy industry on our planet, and my own attempts to be part of the solution and opt for a more plant-based diet, whenever I can, while still staying true to my culinary delights. So I really should include an addendum to my Cuisinicity logo for it to say:
Love the Food that Loves You (and Your Planet) Back!
Nutritionally, milk and dairy are a good source of protein and calcium but, just as I had specified last year (that hasn’t changed), Milk & Dairy do not figure into my permanent links on the left side bar of this website. That’s because, as the title alludes to, as far as nutrition goes, you could literally…take it or leave it! The world’s best diets, producing the world’s best health (check out the Blue zones), do not tend to emphasize dairy, with rare exception. Some of the best diets include dairy, some exclude it entirely.
The whole food categories I chose to display prominently to your left so you can always access them (go ahead and take a look!) are veggies, fruit, beans, legumes, nuts & seeds and whole grains—That’s it!…And the reason I intentionally designed my website that way is that we can all agree, whatever our personal preferences or inclinations, that these ARE the staples of a healthy diet! Be it vegan, vegetarian, paleo, pescatarian, or omnivorous, the common denominator for a diet that will help us over a lifetime is comprised of that simple list that also happens to be most sustainable for our planet too! There is clear consensus on that!
Whether you want to add fish & seafood or poultry or lean meat or eggs or milk & dairy, or any combination of them to that list, is up to your own personal preference. As I wrote about last week, YOU’RE THE BOSS! My own preference is not to include any red meat, which is why you will NOT find it in my recipes because we just don’t eat it in the Katz family (as far as nutrition is concerned, grass-fed organic unprocessed red meat is OK in moderation).
Because Cuisinicity represents some 25 years of our lives, my cooking has evolved of course. More currently, I have evolved toward a more moderate use of milk, dairy and eggs in my more recent recipes–again because of my concerns for the environment but also for ethical reasons. That was in fact my new year resolution! But don’t get me wrong: I still make my beautiful recipes for organic poultry and for wild fish & seafood and I still use organic cage free eggs (preferably pasture-raised when I can find them) in my cooking and baking at times-they are absolutely delicious and nutritious as they ever were– but I make them a little less frequently. That just works for us!
Similarly for milk and dairy, I have many recipes that call for them (but not butter), and I still love them and I still use them from time to time when nothing else will do, culinarily! I find that for my Gratin Dauphinois, for example, only milk will do…and that’s that! Same for my Simply Spinach Dip where only plain Greek Yogurt will do the trick! Same thing for my recipes that call for a little cheese: Nothing else will do (I am French after all!). However, if I can easily replace the milk with plant-based milks without interfering with the flavor or texture, I will specify that in that recipe, so at least, you have the choice. There is no right or wrong, you choose, but every little change toward a more plant-based diet helps!
So if you are of the “TAKE IT” camp, read on and keep in mind moderation for our beautiful planet….
I use non-fat, organic dairy when it comes to milk & yogurt. This is to reduce or eliminate saturated fat which, despite clamor to the contrary (I know this directly from my go-to guy for all things nutrition), is associated with increased risk for inflammation, cardiovascular disease and chronic disease in general. My husband’s take on the dairy fat issue, recently updated here, is that any potential benefit of dairy fat is all about the “instead of what?” question. In the context of a typical American diet, where full-fat dairy calories might replace junk food, it might be a good idea. But in the context of a Cuisinicity diet where you get satiety from wholesome foods; where there is no junk; and where you get plenty of the most healthful fats from nuts, seeds, olives, avocado, and fish- the saturated fat from dairy might well do harm, and is very unlikely to do any good.
I use organic milk only, because it is certified to come from cows that are not treated with hormones or antibiotics, and that get plenty of fresh grass grown without chemical fertilizers or pesticides. I prefer it also because it is more humane to the cows, and if at all possible, I recommend it be from local farms. Here in Connecticut I recommend Smyth’s Trinity Farm and Freund’s Farm (we got a wonderful personal tour of their family-owned dairy farm last year). I think it tastes even better!
I use pasteurized only–never raw and this is why (click here). Although, again, if you know your local farm and its hygiene and care & health of the animals first hand, you can make an exception.
I sometimes use Lactose free skim milk, if need be, and I find that it works just as well in those recipes that call for regular milk, so if you are lactose intolerant or sensitive, please feel free to replace in my recipes.
Here are recipes that use fat-free milk: My Power Chocolate Banana Milkshake and Power Strawberry Banana Milkshake (WOW! you won’t believe the secret power ingredient in there!), Béchamel Sauce, Gratin Dauphinois, Corn Bread, Simply Porridge, Pumpkin Cinnamon Walnut Pancakes, Raspberry Crumb Cakes.
I sometimes substitute some of the sugar called for in a recipe with fat-free powdered milk as a source of natural sugar found in lactose to cut down on regular added sugar in some of my baked goods. I do that in my Soft Wheat Banana Muffins, Blueberry Corn Muffins, Chewy Granola Squares, Pumpkin Allspice Smoothie, Peach Flat Cake, Fresh Fruit Clafoutis, Mocha Brownie Bites, Chocolate Brownies. I also use non-fat powdered milk as a “creamer” directly in my coffee so it leaves the coffee piping hot and doesn’t “dilute” it down as skim milk would.
I like to use fat-free yogurt in a lot of my recipes, such as in my Fresh Fruit Trifle, Fresh Fig Custard, Peach Orange Smoothie, Carrot Bread with Honey Yogurt Dip, Spinach Dip, Strawberry Banana Panini, Apple Honey Panini. I also use low fat ricotta in my Pumpkin Honey Ricotta Muffins.
I do make an exception to my non-fat rule with cheese; when a recipes calls for cheese, I use the full fat variety. The reason why I do so is that I find the skim, or even part-skim variety to taste and “behave” like…well… cardboard (that goes for vegan cheese as well, I just can’t stand it!!). So, I like to use a very flavorful full-fat cheese intentionally so I can use it only sparingly (a little goes a long way!). In fact, I serve such a dish only once or at most twice a week so as to keep the saturated fat content of our overall diet to a minimum. Of course, every so often, a good goat cheese or brie with a crusty baguette and a glass of red wine is just what is called for on a date night with my hubby. I am French after all! Here are some of my recipes that use cheese: Galette with Caramelized Onions, Tomatoes & Goat Cheese, Fresh Tomato Olive & Basil Galette, Creamy Spinach Artichoke Dip, Farro White Bean Risotto, Sneaky Cheese Pizza, Sneaky Macaroni & Cheese, Pumpkin Goat Cheese & Pignoli Galette, Chicken Parmesan, Mexican Stuffed Bell Peppers, Gratin Dauphinois.
So, there you have it! If you decide to “leave it” altogether you will be just fine and in fact make a contribution to our beautiful planet but if you want to include milk and dairy in your diet, from time to time, and maybe with a little more moderation, I still have some wonderful recipes for you….so enjoy!