Perhaps gaining the fastest in variety and popularity are dairy substitutes. As you browse the shelves of your local health food store, you will find an amazing number of brands and varieties of soy milk, cheese, yogurt, and other “dairy” items. Perhaps one of the best areas to start with might be the frozen section, where you will find “ice cream” and other soy goodies to satisfy your sweet tooth. For those with lactose intolerance or milk allergies, soy dairy substitutes are a great way to once again enjoy some of the good things in life.
One of the most extensive lines of soy substitutes is soy milk – with dozens of brands and varieties to sample. Soy milk is made from ground, soaked and pressed whole soybeans and is cholesterol-free. Even though soy naturally has calcium, some brands add more to their products. You can find such a great selection of soy milk, but please keep in mind that the taste, texture, and color can vary greatly from one brand to another – keep trying different soy milk until you find one you enjoy. You can find soy milk in either the refrigerated section of your supermarket or health food store, as well as in aseptic (non-refrigerated) containers on the shelf. Usually found in quart or half-gallon sizes in whole, low-fat, and nonfat. You can also find different flavors of soy milk including plain, vanilla and chocolate.
Soy milk can be used in place of dairy milk for any recipe. For cream-based soups and desserts (especially flan, pudding, custard), you might want to try whole or possibly low-fat soy milk, as nonfat will not provide the desired consistency (it cannot bind as well as whole-fat soy milk). Plain and vanilla are great with cereal, oatmeal, smoothies, and shakes – it really depends on your personal preference. If you have never tried
soy milk, you might want to start with those found in the refrigerated section – they more often resemble dairy milk in taste and texture.
Storage-Unopened aseptic containers of soy milk can be stored at room temperature for several months and unopened refrigerated soy milk can be kept in your refrigerator for several months – check the label for expiration dates. Do not be surprised to find that soy milk has an expiration date of several months away from the date of purchase. Once opened, any type of soy milk must be stored in the refrigerator and used within 7 – 10 days.
There is a great selection of soy cheeses available for cooking, baking and just snacking! Like soy milk, there are regular, low-fat and nonfat varieties in a variety of styles such as Parmesan, Monterrey Jack, and Cheddar. There are also some great flavored cheeses that have the same consistency as dairy cheese (the full-fat versions will also melt just as well) and are great for pizzas, pasta, and nachos.
You can even find soy cream cheese in several flavors – if you use soy cream cheese for baking remember to lower your oven temperature about 25 – 50 degrees. Any soy cheese has less fat than its dairy counterpart, and higher temperatures might cause soy cheese to separate.
As with any packaged food, please read the nutritional and ingredient labels. Some soy cheese may contain small amounts of milk protein which might upset anyone who has problems digesting milk or who wishes to avoid all dairy products. If you prefer, try some of the vegan soy cheese on the market.
Storage-As there are so many different types of soy cheese (with different shelf lives), please refer to the package for storage suggestions.
When live bacteria cultures are added to any milk, you have yogurt – with soy yogurt you have the added bonus of cholesterol and lactose-free treat! You can find whole, and low-fat soy yogurt in plain, vanilla or fruit flavors. Currently, you might be more likely to find a greater variety of soy yogurt at your local health food store (this may be true for any of the soy dairy substitutes). Soy yogurt is perfect for smoothies and shakes, soups, dressings, desserts – any recipe that calls for dairy yogurt – and of course, eaten as is for a quick and healthy breakfast or snack!
Storage-Once opened, soy yogurt should be consumed within 7 – 10 days (refrigerated).
Both dairy and soy sour cream are made by adding a souring agent to milk (or soy milk) – however, soy sour cream is lactose and cholesterol-free and has a taste and consistency similar to its dairy counterpart. You can substitute soy sour cream in any recipe without changing the amount called for or the cooking temperature. It is perfect
as a topping for potatoes, nachos, and soups and can be flavored for a tasty dip!
Storage-After opening, soy sour cream will last in your refrigerator for approximately two weeks.
Along with soy milk, non-dairy desserts may be the fastest-growing soyfood. If you are very timid about trying soy, head straight for the frozen section – you are bound to find something to satisfy your sweet tooth! As will soy milk, there are several brands and varieties to choose from, some will be more to your liking than others so keep sampling until you find one (or more) than makes you happy, happy, happy. You can find nondairy whipped topping, soy “ice cream” and novelty treats, such as “ice cream” sandwiches.
Storage-As with any frozen item, be sure you watch out for freezer burn. Try storing novelty items (once the box is opened) in a Ziploc freezer bag or freezer storage container. How long with soy frozen items last – probably longer than they will have the chance to! Otherwise, most frozen treats will last up to 2 months if properly stored.