Saturday, August 18, 2007

Cheese for the Cheeseless

It was a very bad day. One of those days that forever changes you. A day that delineates a definite "Before" and "After." The life-altering occurrence? My husband found out he was lactose intolerant. And, no, not just the "take a Lactaid pill and have some cheesecake anyway" kind of lactose intolerant, but the kind where it's inadvisable to partake of butter, fresh cheeses or any product containing milk without risking...ahem...shall we say "explosive repercussions."

In my usual state of denial, I suggested trying different cheeses and dairy products to see which, if any, his system could tolerate. But, considering the discomfort involved, he declined to let me use his digestive system as a science lab for my experiments (sheesh!). So we adjusted, switching to a more Mediterranean diet, using margarine instead of butter in desserts and becoming vigilant label-readers at the grocery store. A friend even dubbed certain foods "Dave-safe" to give us a heads-up about what was okay to eat.

After doing some reading and consulting with other families making this adjustment, we found that aged cheeses like extra sharp cheddar and parmesan or romano were acceptable, as were great substitute products like Tofutti cream cheese and sour cream (see note, below). So when he was craving a creamy-cheesy fix, I figured out a recipe for macaroni and cheese that came close to replicating the super-rich pasta dish that had been removed from our table on that fateful day. And for those of you who may have a use for something like this, here's the recipe:

Dave-Safe Mac'n'Cheese

1 lb. dried pasta
4 Tbsp. stick margarine (see note, below)
4 Tbsp. flour
2 c. lactose-free whole milk
3/4 lb. extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
8 oz. Tofutti cream cheese (see note, below)
1/2 tsp. hot pepper sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil large pot of water. While water is heating, melt margarine in medium-sized saucepan. Remove from burner and add flour, stirring to combine. Place back on burner and cook on low heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add milk and stir until it thickened, then add cheese in handfuls until melted. Add cream cheese and stir until sauce is thick and creamy, then add hot sauce with salt and pepper to taste.

Add pasta to boiling water and cook till al dente. Drain and put in casserole dish, pour cheese sauce over top and stir gently to combine. Bake in 350 degree oven 30 minutes.

NOTE: In the interim since this post was written, a new line of products has come on the market that has changed everything. Green Valley Organic Lactose-Free butter, cream cheese and sour cream are now on our go-to list. If you have access to them, give them a try in this recipe! (BTW, we're not thrilled with their plain yogurt at this point, but it's fine in recipes like Chicken Tikka Masala.)


Anonymous said...

Buttermilk is also more tolerable, allegedly. And I believe that doctors often recommend eating low-fat or non-fat yogurt with live cultures every day for the lactose intolerant and that it can greatly help. It's also worth noting that someone's lactose intolerance can be variable and he may gain back his tolerance.

Kathleen Bauer said...

Thanks for the suggestions! Though, apparently, the less dairy is consumed, the less enzyme the body produces. So over time people can become less and less tolerant, and it looks like we may be at that point.

But it does mean that when we go out, I'm ordering gorgonzola cream sauce and slathering butter on everything. Yum!

Anonymous said...

Gee thanks for making me crave Mac-n-Cheese!

Last night I made up a batch...not Dave friendly I'm afraid so I guess that means more for was a ridiculous combo of fontina, Brie,asiago,provolone,cheddar and some parmigiano reggiano for good measure. The good thing about having that much cheese in one go is that it's almost pysically impossible to eat a lot, so there are DAYS of leftovers. Yummm. Oh, yeah...I made some tomato soup from the few tomatoes I've managed to save from the rain. Perfect rainy summer weather food is to take a spoonful of mac-n-cheese and dunk it into the bowl of soup. Oh man.

Kathleen Bauer said...

Ai yi yi! You're making me cry here! Next time give me a heads-up and I'll come over with spoon in hand.

How's about sharing that tomato soup recipe? We're starting to get a crop in now...

Anonymous said...

Soup recipe:

Simple yet delicious!!

I just used what I had...turned out to be about 3 quarts of tomatoes when all was said and done.
-Fresh tomatoes (about 15 med-large)
-About 1 Tbs each of olive oil and butter
-5 garlic cloves
-1 med red onion
-2 stalks celery small dice
-1/2 cup white wine
-1/2 cup half and half (milk or heavy cream also work, but 1/2-n-1/2 is the perfect blend)
-Salt and Pepper TT
-Hot sauce if desired

Peel and de-seed tomatoes.
Heat on med-high olive oil and butter in a heavy pot with garlic,celery and onions. Let them carmelize want little charred bits. Deglaze the pan with wine and reduce by 1/2. Empty all of the peeled and deseeded tomatoes in the pan and let cook down for atleast an hour.
With an emersion blender puree the soup and turn off heat. Add Salt,pepper and hot sauce to taste and finish with half and half before service.

Anonymous said...

...But did she burn the soup on purpose to give it that old time "Mom can't make a batch of soup without burning it, taste"

Kathleen Bauer said...

Oh, you two!

I think the tomato onslaught (I can hear it coming, can't you?) deserves its own post. Look for it soon!

Anonymous said...

Actually Kathleen, it's kind of a family time Mom did infact burn the tomato soup and I LOVED the flavor so much that I asked her to burn it everytime after that. She never did...and it was never as good as that burned batch. :-)

Kathleen Bauer said...

It's that smoooooooooky time char the tomatoes before mixing them in!

Letterpress said...

I know this is an old post, and you may not get this comment, but as a lactose-intolerant person, I first avoided all milk. (Discovered I was after a trip to Japan, where they don't eat any milk--I felt better than I had in years and all symptoms were greatly lessened!)

It kept getting worse, then one night, at a party, I couldn't resist a bit of goat cheese. Interestingly, for the next day, my stomach didn't gurgle as much and symptoms were ameliorated. I was surprised, then to read on your blog about the less diary-less enzyme business. Since then, I've been trying to down a small serving of probiotic yogurt (with lactose pills) about every 2 days. Things seem much improved. thanks for the lactose-intolerant mac/cheese recipe (I linked over from NYTimes).

Kathleen Bauer said...

My husband's problems came on gradually, as well. Initially he was able to control it with the pills but eventually they didn't work any more.

I understand from my anecdotal reading and conversations that there are different kinds of lactose intolerance. Some people can eat yogurt and goat cheeses, some can eat butter, others can't have any of it. Unfortunately my spousal unit seems to be in the latter category, and isn't really excited for me to use his intestinal tract for "science experiments." (Sheesh!)

Thanks for writing, Letterpress!

Anonymous said...

Thaaaaaaank youuuuuuuuu!

I recently discovered the same serious flaw in myself. This, coming from a former-toddler who would sneak globs of butter from the dish when mum wasn't looking. Major tragedy! But I admit, my tummy feels much MUCH better when I avoid it except for small tasty doses. I will definitely be making this - glad to hear that sharp cheddar is still mostly tolerable. I didn't know that one was on the list, although I've been okay with small amounts of butter and yogurt.

Since we're talking lactose/dairy intolerance, may I bring up casein-intolerance for people to keep an eye on? A lot of milky products will advertise lactose-free, but those with a casein intolerance still won't be able to digest it, and the pills wouldn't do much good either. Just something to note.

Thanks, and cheers!

Kathleen Bauer said...

You're welcome, RD…let me know how it works for you!

Renee said...

Do you think I could use almond milk in place of the Lactaid milk? Would it give the cheese sauce the same consistency as your recipe?

Kathleen Bauer said...

Renee, I haven't used almond milk before, so I'm not sure if it would substitute for the Lactaid. If you try it and it works, definitely let me know!