When I was 24 years old, I gave birth to my son Isaiah. In the competitive food magazine industry in New York City, where I worked, you could say I had just ruined my career. By age 26, I was a single mom and life was beautiful chaos mixed with struggles to pay the bills. I worked a full-time job plus freelance work and I had no family locally, which meant that I was pretty much on my own. We lived in a small one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn and I slept in the living room. We had our share of ups and downs, but we had each other—and that was all I ever needed.
By age two, Isaiah started to show signs of digestive issues. I repeatedly received calls about picking him up from daycare. They thought he had chronic stomach bugs. It turned out he was lactose intolerant. I went home and realized his diet was heavy on kid-friendly dairy convenience foods like cheese sticks, yogurt tubes, boxed mac and cheese, granola bars, cookies, and crackers. That was my first taste of understanding how changing our diets could change our lives, and it did—for a while.
When he was 13, a blood test revealed Isaiah was intolerant to both dairy and gluten. That was the start of our journey navigating the world of food intolerances. It changed our lives forever. When I first entered the dairy-free world, I was overwhelmed by the thought that we’d never eat ice cream or Parmesan—let alone drink milk—again.
As a food magazine editor and bakery owner, I understood how ingredients worked—until I had to start from scratch and see the kitchen and supermarket through a new, blurred lens.
How do you get over the fact that you have to look past the foods you used to order at your favorite restaurant or ingredients you are so used to using? By knowing that it’s all still there—you just have to look in a different aisle or area on the menu.
When I witnessed how eliminating dairy from Isaiah’s diet alleviated his health problems, there was no going back. Turns out millions of Americans can’t tolerate dairy. The 30-Minute Dairy-Free Cookbook is for you—for anyone who needs or wants to eat dairy-free.
In my first cookbook, Cooking for Isaiah: Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Recipes for Easy, Delicious Meals, I sidestepped the dairy-free part of my son’s new diet. I honestly didn’t know how to replace full-dairy ingredients and still get a recipe that would yield something that looked and tasted like its dairy counterpart.
By the second book, Silvana’s Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Kitchen: Timeless Favorites Transformed, I was determined to face the dairy-free challenge head on. This opened my eyes to the possibilities of cooking and baking free of the constraints of traditional techniques. I experimented with different ingredients and new methods to develop a building block of dairy-free basics like milk, butter and yogurt.
Sure, the number of dairy-free products that now line our supermarket shelves, refrigerated cases and freezer sections is remarkable. Ultimately, though, nothing beats the comfort of a home-cooked meal—and that’s why we’re here together on this dairy-free adventure, one meal at a time.
For ingredient substitutions, please see the detailed chart at Gluten-Free 101.
Thanks for joining me in the kitchen—let’s get cooking!