Having a child with a severe food allergy seems overwhelming to a lot of people. The reality of it is: You get used to it. You have no choice. And it’s not as hard as you might think.

Lilah has been allergic to dairy since she was a baby. Not lactose intolerant, but actually allergic to milk protein. Like, if she had a sip of milk, her throat would close up and she’d die without an Epi-Pen injection.  In fact, her allergy is so severe that if a dairy product touches her skin, she gets hives at the point of contact. So, living without dairy is what we do and, given the alternative, we do it quite willingly and happily.

Admittedly, cooking without dairy was hard for me to get used to at first, but I did, and we’re probably healthier for it. Actually, I think learning to live without dairy has made me a better, more resourceful cook because I can’t count on the extra oomph from a pat of butter, a dollop of sour cream, or a sprinkle of cheese to round out a dish. Searching for extra flavor in other ingredients – spices, vegetables, herbs, high quality oils and vinegars, condiments, nuts, and olives – has been a wonderful learning experience, one that I wouldn’t trade for all of the fromage in France.

That being said, it does complicate things sometimes. Eating at restaurants, for instance, can be hard. We can’t just go wherever we want, we have to be sure that whatever restaurant we decide on isn’t going to result in a trip to the ER.  Thai, Japanese, and Chinese food, are all usually safe, tasty bets and, as a result, Lilah has become a sushi connoisseur. Of course, glatt kosher places are also totally safe, like our favorite Middle Eastern place up the street. It’s a win-win: the food is excellent and we can be 100% confident that it’s dairy-free. On the other hand, French, Greek, Turkish, and Indian food are all, unfortunately, too risky for Lilah to eat. And Italian food, with its abundance of cheese in the food and on the table, is completely out of the question.

Another sticky wicket in the dairy allergy dining experience is breakfast. We cannot go out for breakfast at all with Lilah, which makes me kind of sad because I love going out for breakfast and brunch.  Yeah, sure, she could eat bacon and eggs, but that’s boring and rather unfair, especially considering that her companions (namely, her siblings) would be gorging themselves on pancakes, waffles, and cheesy omelettes.

So, to get over my brunch angst, I’ve been experimenting with different recipes for YEARS in an attempt to make delicious, dairy-free pancakes and waffles from scratch. The pancakes are still only just OK, in my opinion, but I’m a stickler for buttermilk, so it’s unlikely that anything will ever strike me as a suitable replacement for that true, sour dairy tang. (And yes, I’ve tried using soy yogurt thinned with soy milk as a replacement, but the results are not even close to being as good as the real thing.) However, I think I’ve finally nailed the waffle recipe. I made them this morning and they were gorgeous – crisp, light, not too sweet, not too eggy. They are a bit labor intensive, but using a mixer or electric beaters helps to speed-up the prep work. Unless you’re a masochist. If you are, then, by all means, knock yourself out and whisk those egg whites by hand.

Anyway, we all loved them. The kids begged for seconds, then thirds, and even declared that they didn’t need maple syrup. My husband and I enjoyed ours with some coffee and fruit, happily acknowledging that this one is finally a keeper.

Dairy-Free Waffles

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups plain or vanilla soy milk (not unsweetened), at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
  • 1 large egg white, at  room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup melted vegan margarine or vegetable oil, plus more for brushing the iron
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Preheat a waffle iron to medium-high.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, egg yolks, vanilla, and 1/4 cup melted margarine or oil. Whisk the milk mixture into the flour mixture until a batter is formed. Take care not to over mix the batter.

In medium bowl with a hand-held electric beaters or whisk, or in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the 3 egg whites until they just begin to hold a loose peak. Scatter the sugar over the whites and continue beating until they hold a soft peak. Using a rubber spatula, fold a third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten the base. Fold in the remaining whites.

Brush the inside surface of the iron with margarine or oil. Pour in enough batter to lightly cover the surface of the iron, about 1/3 to 3/4 cup, depending upon the size of the iron. (Take into consideration that the batter will spread once the lid is closed.) Cover and cook until golden brown and slightly crisp, about 5 minutes. Repeat with the remaining batter. (If the waffle iron is well seasoned or nonstick it is not necessary to brush the inner surface each time before cooking the waffles.)

Serve the waffles immediately with syrup, jam, or fresh fruit, then pat yourself on the back for putting a waffle iron on your wedding registry.