When I think of comfort foods, I think Ahhhhhh! When I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease (coupled with a gluten intolerance, dairy, soy, egg and yeast intolerances) I thought that the world of taste was gone forever!!!! I had stepped into the world of “can’t”. I can’t have this, I can’t have that…so I went on a quest. My quest was for substitutes for the foods I couldn’t eat. Not just “substitutes”, but TASTY substitutes. Substitutes that would make my dishes taste close enough to the originals that I could bring them to a potluck and no one would know they were modified. Being an artist by trade (and to the core) I put my creativity to work. This is one of the first substitutes I came across (and my favorite). Unsweetened (light) coconut milk. I thought for sure that I’d only be able to use unsweetened coconut milk in baked goods because it would have that “coconut” aftertaste. I was pleasantly surprised to find it rather mild with NO aftertaste. Which makes it the perfect choice to mimic milk (perfect texture too). I’m not talking about the cans of coconut milk that you buy on the shelf at the grocery store. Those are pretty high fat and do have that coconut aftertaste. I do have GREAT recipes using the canned coconut milk too. (But that will be on a later day.) The coconut milk I’m talking about here comes in cartons. The brand name that I use is “So Delicious Dairy Free”. I find it at my local health food store. They carry it in the refrigerated section in a half-gallon carton that looks like all of the other milks. It comes in chocolate, vanilla and unsweetened, to name a few. The unsweetened lighter version used in the recipe is in the green carton of the “So Delicious Dairy Free” brand. My local health food store also carries it unrefrigerated in a rectangle green carton on the shelf. I use this item so much that I’ll pick up a refrigerated carton and several unrefrigerated boxes every time I grace the store. Look for “So Delicious Dairy Free Unsweetened Coconut Milk” in the green carton. You’ll be glad you did. Now onto the recipe…This recipe is for the basic white sauce that can be used as a gravy or as a base for a creamed soup. The original recipe is from the one my mom used to make when I was a kid that she called “Chipped Beef on Toast” or “Tuna and Hard-Boiled Eggs on Toast”. Yummy, versatile, very simple and oh, so, comforting! The original recipe: 2 Tablespoons Butter and 2 Tablespoons Flour per 1 cup of Milk. Well…I had to find substitutes for all 3 of the ingredients to make my recipes work. I love making Creamy Potato Bacon Soup out of this cream base. I could eat it practically every day. Here is my recipe:
Basic White Sauce or Cream Soup Base– Gluten, Dairy & Soy Free (Optional: Corn Free)
2 Tablespoons Extra Light Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Cornstarch (or alternative starches: tapioca starch, arrowroot, etc. SEE “TIPS” BELOW)
1 Cup “So Delicious Dairy Free UNSWEETENED Coconut Milk”
Plenty of spices: Salt, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Pepper, etc.—to taste— but for me, more is better
This recipe should be multiplied to the amount you want to achieve. For instance, if you’re making a creamed soup and you want 5 cups of the cream sauce— multiply everything by 5: (Example: 10 Tablespoons Olive Oil, 10 Tablespoons Cornstarch, to 5 Cups Unsweetened Coconut Milk.) If your soup is too thick for your taste, add more coconut milk until it reaches the consistency you’d like.
DIRECTIONS: In a saucepan on the stove, heat the Extra Light Olive Oil on medium heat and add the Cornstarch. Stir until combined. You’ll need to move quickly once the oil and cornstarch are combined. Add the Coconut Milk all at once and stir constantly over medium heat until mixture thickens (usually around 5-10 minutes). Add your spices very generously. Remember, it’s pretty mild so the sauce will take on whatever flavorings you add to it. I use a lot of onion powder and garlic powder in this sauce. If you find that your sauce is too thick at this point for what you’re using it for, add more of the unsweetened coconut milk a quarter cup at a time until you reach your optimum consistency.
TIPS: The reason I use cornstarch is because of its desired texture and thickening qualities. If you’re not able to use corn in your recipes, by all means, use another starch. Being the picky eater I am, I happen to not like the texture of the tapioca starch. It gets too gooey and somewhat rubbery for me. Although it doesn’t change the taste, fortunately. Always use caution when using arrowroot as your starch as it can lose its thickening abilities at higher temps for periods of time. You may also substitute a margarine for the olive oil. The only margarine that I’ve found that I can have is the Earth Balance–No Soy Version—in the red container. I found that the water content in margarine sometimes doesn’t work as well as the olive oil. The only thing that I would stress NOT substituting in this recipe is the unsweetened coconut milk. That is the most important ingredient! Finding this substitute changed completely how I could cook!!
APPLICATIONS: This recipe works great for creamed soups such as: Creamy Potato Bacon Soup, Chicken Wild Rice Soup, New England Clam Chowder, Cream of Broccoli, Cream of Chicken, Cream of Mushroom, etc. etc. etc! You may substitute this in your casseroles which call for Cream of Mushroom soup. Personally, I can’t have mushrooms either so I substitute sautéed onions and cooked chicken in the sauce when a casserole calls for the Cream of Mushroom. You may also add cheese substitutes to the sauce for a cheesy flavor. I would suggest the “CHREESE” brand packets–either alfredo style or cheddar for some added flavor.