I want to make some recipes (ie. spinach gratin, penne ala vodka, mac & cheese) that require items like heavy cream, mascapone cheese, ricotta, etc all dairy products that I can no longer digest since I am lactose-intolerance. Would anyone recommend substitutes for these recipes that require dairy items? Thanks!
I'm afraid this really doesn't answer your question so apologies right away. I am lactose intolerant and have been for about 5 years now. I can't drink milk or have cheese without getting really ill. However I find lactaid pills completely fix the problem. I have always had my doubts that some of these recipes will work with substitutes - so I would suggest investing in some pills.
Sometimes, I want to try and be good and so I don't eat dairy for awhile -usually when this happens I try and cook mostly asian foods since they don't require dairy.
I haven't ever seen lactose free cream or soft cheeses. You can buy lactaid drops that you put in milk - those would probably work in the cream too.
Welcome to the crappy club :)
For lasagna or other Italian dishes requiring ricotta, try silken tofu, the really soft (not firm) kind. It replicates the creamy texture of ricotta really well and no one can tell the difference!
Of course, soy cheese may help you with your mac & cheese idea... not quite the same as 'real' cheese but it's better than the yellow powder in Kraft mixes... :)
No advice yet on the other dairy items you mentioned.
I second the lactaid recommendations -- my husband is lactose-intolerant (big time) but just one little pill and he is good to go for anything from ice cream to cheese to a glass of milk. Makes my life a lot easier, cooking for him! :)
For some reason the Lactaid pills don't work for me. And they discontinued the drops. A Canadian company might still sell it though, from what I can remember.
All I do is avoid milk and softer cheeses in my cooking. If a soup recipe calls for milk, I use soy milk. If I need to use cream, I use soy milk with a little soft tofu blended in, or I might just use soy milk if I'm lazy. I think you can use sharp cheeses with no problem (at least I can), so extra sharp cheddar, parmaggiano-reggiano, asiago, etc. are my friends. They have more flavor anyways.
I do have a weakness for certain soft cheeses, e.g. goat cheese, feta, and bleu cheeses. I try to use high quality, high-flavor varieties in low quantities.
I actually think being lactose intolerant has made me healthier, by reducing the dairy in my diet. Many people around the world survive just fine without the dairy. And despite what the dairy industry would say, their bones don't fall apart. :-)