"In all of living have much fun and laughter. Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured!"
~ Gordon B. Hinckley

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Deliciously Dairy-free Hawaiian Haystacks!

I decided I want to turn over a new leaf. Lots of them, actually, but one in particular is on my mind today. Ever since finding out last Summer that I'm lactose intolerant, my food options have become a lot more limited. I take Lactaid frequently to help me get through life without having to give up all my favorite foods with dairy products in them (dairy, or at least some form of it, is in like everything!!!), but sometimes it just doesn't cut it and I still end up feeling gross and sick despite taking lactaid. Foods really high in lactose like cream, butter, straight up milk, sour cream, ice cream, cream cheese, soft cheeses etc. are especially problematic, even with lactaid. You try finding a way to eat desserts and all your favorite meals without any of those as ingredients!! I'm also mildly allergic to soy and almonds, so the main milk replacements are not an option for me.

Now that I'm combating this basically 24/7 morning sickness on top of my usual nausea and lactose intolerance, I get cravings for comfort foods that I can't eat without getting sick! Not cool. Plus in general it's just not fun to have to choose between eating food and being happy until the symptoms set in and make you miserable for several hours, or just eating lame dry cereal, peanut butter sandwiches, and salads without ranch and pretending like eating that makes you happy and fulfilled. Not to mention it takes all the fun out of cooking, and my husband is obsessed with dairy, so a no-dairy diet for both of us is a bad thing. And who wants to spend all afternoon cooking some great meal for your husband, and then have to eat something lame instead while smelling it and watching him eat it in front of you?

Just last night I went through a collection of favorite recipes my mom sent me as a birthday present a couple years ago, and of the 45 beloved childhood recipes I can now only eat about 4 (one of which is a veggie appetizer thing, and one is bread. Not even meals). And most of them are not just mildly lactose-laden, but are big red flag no no's. Sad!

My aspiration now is to make a collection of "deliciously dairy-free" recipes that are adaptations of all my old favorites that I can no longer eat, as well as a few that are already dairy-free favorites (for example, tacos and fajitas! Just without the sour cream and cheese on top), and of course lots of yummy desserts! So I won't feel like I'm missing out, I'll have a great handy list of ideas of food I love, I'll get good practice learning how to tweak recipes and make substitutions so they still taste great but are free of lactose, and it will hopefully be a good resource for any other lactose-intolerant people out there experiencing the same suffering as me!

Today's project:
Deliciously Dairy-free Hawaiian Haystacks! One of Trevor's favorite meals!

Skipping any cheese or sour cream on top is easy, it's the gravy/sauce that's the culprit. Milk and canned creamed soups are both big bad items, so mixing them together and dousing your entire meal with them is just not good news. Delicious? Yes. Problems later? You betcha. My husband also has a habit of mixing a stick of butter in with a pan of rice as soon as it finishes cooking to keep it from sticking. Yikes. Also a big problem.

I usually just skip the gravy these days, and eat it like a fruity chicken veggie salad on top of rice and let Trevor have all the gravy for himself. It's absolutely not the same though.

I got inspired when I saw a recipe on Pinterest for Hawaiian Haystack gravy that doesn't use cream of chicken soup! It's from Mel's Kitchen Cafe linked here.

It's not dairy-free, but it gave me a great diving board to jump from!

Here's the final recipe for the sauce that I came up with, based very strongly on her original:

Deliciously Dairy-free Hawaiian Haystack Gravy

 I took a picture before loading it up with toppings so you can see the sauce, but the picture really doesn't do it justice!

- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into small chunks
- 3 Tbs Blue Bonnet light margarine (that specific one is dairy-free). You could probably also substitute oil, it just wouldn't have quite the same flavor.
- 1/2 c. chopped onion
- 2 cloves minced garlic (can also substitute garlic powder or garlic salt. If using garlic salt, do not add salt when simmering. I used about 1 1/2 tsp garlic salt and I liked it)
-  1 tsp salt (do not add if using garlic salt instead of garlic)
- between 1/4 and 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 1/4 c flour
- 1/2 can (about 1 cup) coconut milk
- 1 c chicken broth

Melt the margarine in a large skillet and add raw chicken chunks and finely chopped onion. Cook over medium heat until the chicken is done. If using fresh garlic, add once chicken is cooked, and heat for an additional minute or two until fragrant. Turn the heat down a notch or two and sprinkle flour over the onion/chicken mixture and stir until combined. Cook for an additional minute to help eliminate the starchy, flour taste. Gradually add chicken broth while whisking (plastic whisk! protect your skillet!) to prevent lumps. Then gradually add coconut milk and continue whisking until sauce is a consistent smooth texture. Bring the sauce to a simmer and add salt and pepper (or garlic salt and pepper if not using fresh garlic). Simmer for about 5 minutes until the sauce thickens. It will be nice and thick and creamy!

Serve over rice, and top with diced tomatoes, bell peppers, pineapple, peas, shredded coconut, chow mein noodles, olives, green onions, mandarin oranges, or whatever else your heart desires :)

It is NOT your typical Hawaiian Haystack gravy; it definitely has it's own ring to it, but I thought it was absolutely divine! The coconut milk gives it a super rich creamy taste different from the typical all-chicken gravy I'm used to. In the future I think I may want to experiment with maybe a bit more chicken broth and a bit less coconut milk just in case we have people over for dinner who don't like the different little zing this recipe has. I seriously love it though! I could just pour it over rice and eat it without any of the toppings, and the toppings are usually my favorite part! And I bet it would be awesome over pasta with red bell peppers too!

If nothing else, Trevor clearly loves my dairy-free adventure of the day! That sounds like victory to me!

P.S., no he is not eating that huge bowl of salad, I'm just short and lazy and the angle is bad so you can't see his heaping plate of haystacks! :)


  1. Hi! This is Katie, Forrest Clark's wife. I saw your blog awhile back when I think you tagged Trevor in a post :-) Anyways,.congrats on the baby.

    Jack is lactose intolerant, and we suspect I am as well. As such, I have been trying to make substitutes of our favorite meals as well. If you go to our blog, www.clarkscondensed.com, and search dairy free, you'll find some posts with a few recipes, as well as roundup of like 50 awesome dairy free recipes.

    At Sprouts, they sell tofutti sour cream and cream cheese, which lactose free,and it tastes just like the regular kind. I don't.know if it had soy though. And all the brands of Kraft's Natural Cheese have 0 g of lactose (it is in small print on the back.) and Breyers has lactose free vanilla ice cream. You may have already known that, but I was so excited when I found out so I thought I would share. Godairyfree.org is a good resource too.that gives a lot of substitutions. :-)

    This recipe sound great th ough. Can't wait to try it!

  2. Thanks! I will DEFINITELY be checking all of those resources out! I am sooooo happy to hear about the ice cream! I've missed that stuff a LOT!

  3. coconut milk! That sounds divine in the gravy! I want to experiment with Coconut milk but it's expensive. I guess I'll have to look for a cheaper brand or wait till it goes on sale! I'm definitely going to try this recipe!

  4. Thank you for this delicious recipe! We all enjoyed our Hawaiian Haystacks, and unlike other things we've cooked for the family lately, I actually got to eat them even though I'm dairy-free now. Yum!

  5. I love Hawaiian Haystacks, but my son has a dairy allergy, so I thought we couldn't have it anymore. This recipe is amazing! I actually like it better than the regular kind. Thanks for sharing!